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Updated: Aug 23, 2019

With summer coming to a close, the "back to school" excitement and nerves are coming into play. Kids are anticipating all kinds of new things - a new teacher, a new classroom, maybe some new friends, some new expectations - which is overwhelming for anyone. I took the liberty of asking a few teachers and a prospective school psychologist if they had any advice for parents as their child gets ready to take on the new school year.

Caroline Miller, 3rd Grade Teacher, Miltona Science Magnet School

Miss Miller takes special care to ensure every student feels welcome in their new classroom community. Throughout the year, she checks in with every child to make sure they have "that smile on" and are feeling valued and cared for. Here is what you can do to facilitate that same mindset at home during the first few weeks of school!

Reading books about the first day of school and having kids connect to the character or experience can help them learn. It's powerful for them!

Find a book that helps kids understand what to expect on their first day such as "First Day Jitters" by Julie Danneberg. Your child will have fun and find comfort in reading books that he can relate to! Miss Miller also stresses understanding your child's nerves as a parent. Remember that patience is important as he works through these emotions and new experiences! Miss Miller also suggests teaching kids that nerves are normal during the first few weeks of school and can even be mistaken for excitement!


Brityn Ryshavy, MAE

Brityn Ryshavy has gained ample experience with nervous students while in school to receive her Masters in Educational Psychology. Her background gives her some unique ideas to curb your child's nerves.

Familiarize your child with their new community and environment by attending school events before and during the school year.

Help your child ease into the school year by taking him to the school open house, book fairs, family fun nights, etc. Attending school events is a great way to supplement conversations you're having with your child about his anxiety. However, conversation isn't the only means for you to encourage him to express his feelings. Ryshavy suggests you to invite your child to draw a picture of what he thinks his classroom will look like or ask him to write a story about his ideal first day. Writing and drawing helps you understand your child's perspective more clearly and is a great conversation starter! Finally, pay attention to your child's nerves throughout the first few weeks or months. "If nervousness is seriously impacting your child's life, seek help." Every school has counselors that are great resources for your child if he needs some extra support in working through his anxiety!


Katie Schneeman, 1st Grade Teacher, Notre Dame Academy

Mrs. Schneeman knows the responsibility as a teacher to make a child feel welcome and at ease as he experiences so many "firsts." She is sure to make an individual connection with each student by learning their interests and name as quickly as possible. It's important for your child to confidently seek comfort in his teacher, but so is learning to bond with other students in the classroom by recognizing they are all in the same boat.

It’s every child's first day in this new room with a new teacher. It’s totally normal to be nervous but comforting for your child to know that they're not alone in feeling that way.

Mrs. Schneeman encourages parents to remind their child that first day (or first week!) jitters are totally normal, and that all other students are experiencing the same new things right along with him. Groups experiencing things for the first time facilitates relationship building and friendships, so remind him of that, too.


Keep things positive! Teach your child how to overcome (not suppress!) his anxiety with these tips. You are your child's biggest advocate and best teacher. Confidence in the classroom starts with you!

I wish all of your children many new adventures and gold stars. I'm sure they deserve it!

Emotions exercise with students from Carver Elementary in Dubuque, IA.

As an author and illustrator, I get the amazing opportunity to go into my community and discuss "brain health" with elementary students. Here's why you should do the same in your homes with your kids.

The intangibility of the word "mental" makes the term "mental health" hard for kids to grasp. However, children understand what a brain is and what it does. By renaming mental health to brain health, we give kids a better chance of understanding what we're trying to say when we start the conversation about mental health, anxiety, or depression. But why start the conversation now?

At school and at home, kids learn how to keep their bodies healthy, but somehow brain health goes by the wayside. It may be because of its complicated nature, or simply because it hasn't traditionally been part of that conversation. We tend to think of mental illness as a "grown up" issue, but anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders do not discriminate. Mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders begin in early childhood effecting 1 in 6 children ages 2-8 years of age (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019). We can't neglect our responsibility to talk about brain health with our kids. Many of them are experiencing complicated emotions now, and need our help in navigating their feelings!

When I introduce brain health to kids, I try to simplify it and make it fun. It doesn't have to be a serious, scary conversation! Here are my two steps to building and maintaining a healthy brain, kid style:

  1. Understand the things that make you feel good or bad. I like to let kids practice this one, for their entertainment (and often for mine too! Kids really do say the darnedest things...). I invite them to tell me what makes them happy to which I get answers like, "getting to chew 4 pieces of gum at once," or "birthday parties that have birthday cupcakes instead of cake." I go through all the emotions in my book—happy, sad, silly, and anxious—and give them the opportunity to share their experiences with me. I then emphasize the importance of understanding the things in their lives that make them feel the way they feel. That way, if they are feeling down, they can remember what makes them feel better.

  2. Talk about your feelings with people you trust. This is the really important one. To make this step more exciting and entertaining for kids, I perform a silly skit where I pretend to be a sad elementary student that tells her mom about her problems. As I talk about my feelings, I relax a little bit and start to feel better. The goal is to illustrate how therapeutic communication can be when we're feeling emotional! I also point out that it's good to talk about all our emotions, not just the bad ones. After all, if we have something exciting happen to us, our positive attitudes can be contagious!

Using these tips as a starting point to discussing brain health with your children can help jumpstart your child's ability to manage their emotions, and can give you a better insight into how they are feeling.

To purchase my book to help start the conversation with your child, click here.


*I am not a mental health professional. I am simply a mental health advocate. If you or your child is suffering from depression, anxiety or any mental health disorder, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional for guidance. I did, and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself!

Lindsey Chapman, Author and Illustrator

Hello! I’m Lindsey, and I created “Clark & Clover.” I’m an artist with a goal to reduce the stigma around mental illness, and to provide a platform where children, parents and teachers alike can openly discuss their emotions in a positive, productive light.

I wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book ever since I started studying graphic design, but a heavy class load, work, and involvement in school left me with little free time to do so. It wasn’t until I submitted my children’s book idea as my semester project in one of my design classes that I got the motivation I needed to make it happen. If you have the book, you’ll see it was dedicated to Serina’s branding class. That’s why.

As a child, I didn’t know what anxiety was or that the day-to-day nervousness I was experiencing due to it wasn’t normal. I contribute this to the general lack of mental health awareness during my childhood, and to the stigma that surrounded the emotion. Throughout my college career, mental health has been emphasized, discussed and valued, which made me feel comfortable seeking the help I needed. I wanted to translate the lessons I learned in college into my children’s book to help the kids who feel like I once felt.

I created “Clark & Clover” featuring a chameleon that changes color based on her emotions. She seeks help from a friend in understanding and managing her feelings. My hope is that the book explains that anxiety isn’t an issue that only adults face, and that it sparks conversation about mental health between children, parents, and teachers. So far, I have been overwhelmed with the positive responses I have gotten from parents, teachers, and kids affirming that my goals have started to become a reality. For that, I am so grateful.

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