Starting the new school year can be a time of great excitement as well as anxiety for both parents and children. Help calm your child’s fears (and your own) with these teacher-approved tips.
The first thing you need to do as a parent is to make sure you are calm and ready for the mission. Being stressed in such times is normal but you should try stress-reduction techniques and do whatever you can to get over it.
Meet the new teacher
For kids, one of the biggest back-to-school fears is “Will I like my new teacher?” Breaking the ice early on is one of the best ways to calm everyone’s fears. Take advantage of your school’s open house or back-to-school night. Some teachers welcome phone calls or e-mails — another great opportunity to get to know each other before the year begins.
If personal contact with the teacher isn’t possible, try locating the teacher’s picture on a school website or in a yearbook, so your child can put a name with a face. If your child’s teacher sends a welcome letter, be sure to read the letter together.
Tour the school
If your school hosts an open house, be sure to go. Familiarizing your child with their environment will help them avoid a nervous stomach on the first day. Together you can meet the teacher, find the desk, or explore the playground.
With an older child, you might ask him to give you a tour of the school. This will help refresh his memory and yours.
Connect with friends
A familiar friend can make all the difference when heading back to school. You might try calling parents from last year’s class and finding out which children are in your child’s class this year. Refresh these relationships before school starts by scheduling a play date or a school carpool.
Back to school shopping
Obtain the class supply list and take a special shopping trip with your child. Having the right tools will help him feel prepared. While keeping basic needs in mind, allow for a couple of splurges like a cool notebook or a favorite-colored pen. These simple pleasures make going back to school a lot more fun.
School supply lists also provide great insight into the schoolwork ahead. Get your child excited about upcoming projects by explaining how new supplies might be used. Let him practice using supplies that he’s not used before — such as colored pencils or a protractor — so he will be comfortable using them in class.
Plan healthy lunches and snacks
The better you plan out the meals in your home, the healthier choices you will make for your kids. When you pack protein-rich snacks and lunches, balanced with fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome items, you ensure that your children will have the energy and brainpower to make it through their school days.
Chat about today’s events and tomorrow’s plans
While it is important to support learning throughout the summer, don’t spend the last weeks of summer vacation reviewing last year’s curriculum. All kids need some down time before the rigors of school begin. For some kids, last-minute drills can heighten anxiety, reminding them of what they’ve forgotten instead of what they remember.
Talk to your kids about bullying
Research shows that one in three kids experience bullying at some point in their school career—and in the increasingly digital world, the consequences can be extreme. Make sure your kids understand the right way to treat their peers, and when to speak up if they see someone else being bullied. Also make sure they know when to come to you if they feel they are being bullied.
Ask your kids about their concerns
The start of school is exciting, but can also bring some anxiety—especially when it comes to the unknown. Take a few minutes to ask your kids what they are most looking forward to during the school year, and what things may be worrying them. By giving them a forum to express their concerns, you can help them work through any worries in advance of school starting and clear up any issues that could lead to a bumpy start to the year.
Set up a bedtime and wake-up routine in advance
If possible, it’s best to establish bedtimes and wake-up times two weeks in advance of the start of school. By the time the first school bell rings, kids will already be on the right sleeping schedule and it will be one less worry for your family.
Ease into the routine
Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful to everyone in the household. Avoid first-day-of-school mayhem by practicing your routine a few days in advance. Set the alarm clock, go through your morning rituals, and get in the car or to the bus stop on time. Routines help children feel comfortable, and establishing a solid school routine will make the first day of school go much smoother.