For some children, late summer cant come soon enough. Theyre excited about seeing friends and learning new things. But most kids are a little nervous before heading back. Here are some ideas to make your childs attitude as positive as possible before the first bell rings.
Check out the school: Visiting the building before that first day is a great idea, says Diane Peters Mayer, a licensed social worker and author of Overcoming School Anxiety: How to Help Your Child Deal With Separation, Tests, Homework, Bullies, Math Phobia, and Other Worries. Walk around the outside, and if you can, go inside so your child will get a sense of the look and feel of their new home away from home. Even if your child has been at this same school before, its still nice to check out the new classroom or meet the teacher.
Make connections: Does your child know anyone else who will be in his classroom or grade? Set up a few play dates with the kids your child will be seeing every day. They may not wind up being best buds, but a familiar face is always nice. Or if your child already has a crowd of friends, you can host a back-to-school barbecue and have the families over. Mayer says if you know any children a grade or two ahead of your own kid, have them come over and talk about the teachers and what sorts of things they learned in that grade. Big kids are cool, so when they share all the awesome things your child will soon be doing, that goes a long way to building enthusiasm.
Dont be too rah-rah: Mayer says that some anxiety before school is normal, so if your kid is a bit nervous, it isnt helpful to insist that theyll love school. Its way better to ask them how theyre feeling about school and to try to casually draw them into a conversation. If there is something specific theyre nervous about, whether its homework, the social scene or even finding the bathroom, you can help your child problem solve.
Get a routine: Mayer recommends talking about what the first days routine will feel like and discussing details, like what time your child will wake up, get dressed and leave. Structure is safety, she explains. You and your kid can plan the sorts of lunches and snacks they might like, too, or see if you can find out what the cafeteria will be serving. Younger children often worry about missing Mom or Dad, so Mayer says its good to give your child a sense of what youll be doing while theyre at school. You might say, When youre having lunch, I will be at the supermarket, or During your music class, I have a meeting with my boss at work. Remind your kid that if he ever needs you, the school knows how to get in touch with you.
Help them find a transitional object: Its fun to come up with something your child can bring to school that reminds him or her of you think of it as taking a piece of home to class, Mayer says. She suggests a photo of your family or a simple note that your child can tuck into her pocket or lunchbox. You could even give her a little charm necklace that she can touch throughout the day.
Make time for special summer memories: You dont have to spend a fortune on a pricey vacation, but think about a few fun summertime activities that you can do with your child that hell enjoy, learn from, and be able to tell his classmates about when the teacher asks, What did you do this summer? Visit a park or playground in your area that you dont normally hang out at, hit a nearby beach or lake or check out any local museums or historic sites.
Be positive: Your child is watching you closely. So when he expresses worry about school, stay cool. Dont panic or your kid may think there truly is cause for concern. Otherwise, why would Mom or Dad be freaking out? If youre calm, your kid will internalize your belief in them and see that theres no need for alarm. Over time, theyll be able to do this for themselves in scary new situations.
It may help you to know that most kids settle very quickly into the new routine of school, says Mayer, so keep in mind that once theyre out the door, theyll probably be successful and enjoy themselves.
Andrea Pyros writes for theinsider.retailmenot.com the online magazine of RetailMeNot.