How to Handle "Back to School" Anxiety
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!