Sometime during mid- to late-August it begins. "Back to School" sale signs start to appear in stores, in advertisements and just about everywhere you turn. Summer camps end their programs, families hurry to take the last of the vacations, and Labor Day approaches rapidly. The summer is officially over, and suddenly thoughts turn toward the reality of the upcoming school year. Back to school jitters begin to make many children's stomachs a little bit queasier.
What can you as a parent do to relieve some of your child's back to school anxieties? Read on to discover some of the most common fears faced by school age children along with some suggestions on how to handle them.
Getting Lost: One of the most frightening concerns of children entering a new school is the possibility of getting lost in the hallways. Even if your child has been provided with a specific homeroom number, finding her way around a big school can be intimidating. If school policy allows, ask permission to show your child the route to her classroom(s) a day or so before the semester begins. It is extremely comforting for younger students to visit their new school ahead of time in order to take a peek at their new classroom, or to walk down the school's semi-quiet hallways before the hustle and bustle of the first day. Make sure that you ask permission from the office staff prior to your arrival, however, since schools have different administrative and security policies regarding visitors. Keep in mind that the same approach can also be used to familiarize children with their bus stops and bus routes.
New Teacher: Once children have arrived at their new classroom they face their most devastating fear… meeting their new teacher. Depending upon what they've heard through siblings, peers and community grapevines, children could be anticipating the worst. Topping the list of children's concerns about teachers includes those two vital questions: "Will my new teacher be nice?" and "How much homework will he or she give?" If your child is extremely anxious, you may wish to make a brief informal visit to the classroom a day or two before the school year begins if possible. Many teachers will be making final preparations for the big day so you may catch them in. Please remember to keep visits short and sweet since teachers are extremely busy working on insuring a smooth and successful first day for their students. Most importantly, try to speak positively to your child about her new teacher and about the exciting events of the upcoming school year. Your enthusiasm and optimism will be contagious!
New Classmates: Now that students have hurdled meeting the new teacher, they must worry about meeting their new classmates. Never underestimate how important it is to your child to be familiar and comfortable with her new classmates. Keep in mind that your child views school not only as a place to learn, but just as importantly, as a place to be with friends, whether it be on the playground, in the lunchroom, at recess, or during extra curricular activities. Many children's anxieties stem from the possibility of not "knowing anyone" in their new class. In order to ease their anxiety, check around with other children or parents ahead of time in order to find out the name of at least one child in her new class (preferably of the same sex). If you are unable to locate any familiar names, ask the office staff if classroom roster information is posted anywhere in the school. Once again, each school has different policies and since the beginning of the semester is a very hectic time for administrators, teachers and office staff, this information may not be available. For any new students entering a district or extremely shy children, talk about and stress the excitement of developing new friendships. Share a personal story of a time when you did not know anyone, or reminisce with them about the first time they met their current best friends.
Failure: Many children can become overly concerned about the work load or the increasing level of difficulty of the work in their new grade. Take this perfect opportunity to remind your child of his academic and/or personality strengths. It never hurts to boost your child's confidence before facing new challenges. Remember to be sincere and honest when praising your child's efforts. Let her know that both you and the teacher will be there to assist her, and will be on her side rooting for her. Being assured of parental support both during successes as well as failures can make a big difference in a child's overall academic performance. By stressing the importance of excellent efforts instead of academic letter grades you can help your child overcome any fears of failure. If fear of failure stems from past performance, set up any support systems that your child may need (tutoring, extra study time or special placements) to insure a more successful experience.
Being Prepared: Have you ever forgotten something at home on the way to an important meeting? It is disturbing to know that you will arrive at your destination unprepared. Likewise, some children worry about having all of the supplies they need to get through the day. Having all of their supplies, clothing, lunch money, snacks, etc. organized the night before school will help insure a smoother start to the day. Enlist your child's assistance in picking out that perfect first day attire or in labeling books, bookbags or lunch boxes with her name and homeroom number. Getting children into the habit of leaving these things in a highly visible and predictable place the night before will avoid a frantic morning rush, and will decrease the possibility of forgetting necessary supplies throughout the year.
General Tenseness: First day jitters happen to even the bravest among us! In order to ease those queasy feelings encourage children to enjoy a relaxing day beforehand. Let them choose to do something they enjoy such as bike riding or a favorite sport. The physical activity along with the fresh air will help children get a good night's rest, and will also help them cope with the adjustment of sitting indoors in a classroom the next day. If possible, try to avoid spending the entire day before on school preparations such as last minute shopping efforts or staying up too late the night before. Another great way to relieve the jitters is to enjoy a special treat together such as an ice cream sundae to celebrate the end of another summer vacation.
After School Arrangements: When the school day ends, after school jitters begin. Perhaps your child will be taking the bus home, will be picked up by you or a friend's parent, will be staying at a babysitter's house, or if old enough, will be going home on her own. Whatever your child's situation, it is imperative that all after school arrangements are known and completely clear to your child. Details such as home, work or emergency phone numbers, bus numbers and names of trusted neighbors can be written down in your child's memo pad in case they are forgotten. Safety is extremely important, so take the time to make sure that your child knows all the information and procedures she will need to get to the chosen after school location without a problem.
Beginning & Ending the Day Special Touches
A calm and positive beginning to your child's day can make a big difference. Beat the morning rush by getting up a little earlier than normal in order to help your child get ready, and to compensate for any unforeseen monkey wrenches. After having a good breakfast, send her on her merry way with lots of cheerful smiles, kisses & hugs and a few confidence boosters.
Wrap up the evening by sharing the many new experiences of your child's first day. Encourage her to talk about the events of the day, and be sure to listen carefully. This will clue you into any concerns your child may still be having. As always, providing positive feedback and encouragement, and assisting with any problem solving can make for a smoother tomorrow. A small treat such as a favorite dessert or a special privilege to celebrate the completion of the first day back is also a nice touch!
With a new school year just around the corner, you can save on everything you need to get your family ready for the first day — whether it's kindergarten or college — at Amazon.com.
At the Back-to-School Savings page, parents can find backpacks, uniforms and other clothing, healthy snacks, and every classroom supply that ever made it onto a teacher's list. All this delivered right to your door plus free shipping on orders over $25. End the Back to School shopping hassle with these great deals from Amazon.
College students are also flocking to the new Amazon Student page .This page features one-stop shopping for the dorm or apartment dweller with laptops, textbooks, clothing, bedding, electronics, and more.
Visit www.littleones.com for our selection of Great/Award Winning Children's Books, Little Ones Recommended Toys & Gifts, Birthday Theme Parties and Baby Basics, along with teacher tips, parenting articles, family fun and much more!