Fall is almost here after one very hot summer. With the approaching first bells of the new school year it is not uncommon for little ones (in addition to parents) to feel both excited and scared. While we all know that they are going to be fine and make friends (and undoubtedly make awesome artwork), new students may themselves be less than certain. Here are 4 Things You Can Do to Help:
1. Familiar places are less scary. Think about what frightens all of us and it usually centers around some aspect of the unknown: What was that sound? What was that shadow? The same is true for our kids. Not knowing what to expect can be fun for some, but terrifying for others. Plan a couple of trips to the school to visit before the first day. Go when nobody is there and play on the playground, or walk the route they will take from the drop off area to the building so they know that they will know how when the day comes. The more familiar and ‘regular’ you can make going to the school, the more their fears may be allayed when the official start of school arrives.
2. Comfort items don’t have to be big. We want our kids to be secure and feel safe, but we also don’t want them to be made fun of by their peers. So letting them show up to the first day of school with their ratty stuffed animal that they have been sleeping with for the past few years is not a great idea. Find something with which they have already made happy memories, and put it in their backpack. For some this might be a small square of a blanket, or even a favorite shirt or other item – every kid is unique in what makes them feel comforted. Make sure that they know the item is in their backpack, and that will give them a measure of comfort they can carry with them.
3. A wristwatch is wonderful. Concepts of time can be a bit tricky to master – especially trying to figure out how long it is from 8:30 until 3:30. So take advantage of the readily available tech out there and snag your student a wristwatch. Get one with a timer on it so they can count down the time until school is out. This is particularly helpful early in the school year while kids are getting a feel for how long their day away from home actually is – you can probably phase it out after the first couple of months, or as the student is ready. They will let you know when they no longer need the watch.
4. Talk it out. Encourage your child to share their feelings. If they are very young and haven’t yet developed much of a vocabulary for expressing how they feel, head to the bookstore and snag a copy of one of the many books that help with that. I really like “Today I Feel Silly”, but you will have plenty of them to choose from – just ask the clerk or librarian. Talking through things helps kids give their experiences and feelings a name. Being able to name what is going on inside them helps them feel more in control of the experience, and takes a lot of the mystery and fear away from the situation. If books aren’t in their wheelhouse just yet (hopefully they are), think about taking them to see “Inside Out”. They do a great job of showing how emotions can work together to help us and being able to visualize emotions as part of who they are is a really powerful thing.
So, there it is – 4 things to help the kids feel less anxious about this new school year. You know your child best, so gauge their level of apprehension and support them as they navigate their way into a big world. Kind words and understanding at home go a long way towards helping them have a great day at school.
Good luck parents, and heaven help us all when the homework starts coming through the door!