Easing Back-to-School Jitters
If you or your child feel a little nervous about the first day of school, you are in good company! Anxiety before the first day of a new school year is common. Fears or concerns may surface the most when a child is going to preschool or kindergarten for the first time. Here are some ways to help you and your child conquer back-to-school jitters:
- Discuss Concerns. Often, back-to-school anxiety comes from questions or concerns that children may have a hard time expressing to you. Instead of telling your child, “everything will be fine” or “stop worrying,” ask how they are feeling about going to school. Listen carefully to their specific concerns and feelings. Allowing your child to express his or her feelings, and validating those feelings — “It makes sense that you feel a little afraid to go to school with older kids” — can sometimes be enough to help a child feel less anxious. Sharing your own feelings and experiences from childhood can also help your child feel less alone. Discussing the ways your child has succeeded with new experiences in the past can help them understand their own strengths.
- Cultivate Positive Thinking. Anxiety can snowball and we can often dig ourselves into our own hole of stress and worry. Once your child has addressed their concerns, ask about things they look forward to when going to school. What is their favorite subject? Do they have any friends they are excited to see? Get them talking about positive expectations and what they hope to experience in the new school year.
- Get Organized. Stress can come from feeling disorganized or unprepared for the start of the school year. Planning ahead with your child can ease some of this stress. Together, make a checklist and check off everything they need for the big day. Days before school starts, have your child pack their backpack with you. Have them pick out some of their favorite pencils and erasers that they will have handy. The night before the first day, make a lunch or snack with your child that they can bring to school. Knowing that they are prepared can ease anxiety and move their focus to more productive and positive things.
- Recognize That Parents Stress Too — and It’s Okay. How are you feeling as your child prepares to head off for the new school year? It may be a mix of emotions, from sadness to excitement to anxiety! Checking in with your feelings, reflecting on your own childhood experiences, and exploring what your child going to school means for you (and what it might bring up) can help lessen anxiety, and consequently help your child feel less stressed. It can really help to acknowledge that we all feel many different emotions with new experiences. Working to be confident and positive when talking to your child about going back to school — and taking deep, calming breaths — can help too!