Featuring: Lindsay Ross, MSW,RSW
As the end of summer quickly approaches, many children start to experience the usual feelings of nervous excitement that come with the impending first day back at school. Whether it’s the start of kindergarten or the first day of high school, it is normal for kids to worry about the unknowns of a brand new school year. These worries often include:
1) Will I like my teacher(s)? Will my teacher(s) like me?
2) Will my friends still like me after the summer? Will I meet new friends?
3) What if I get teased or bullied?
4) Will I achieve academically? Can I manage my course load? Am I taking the right courses?
So how can parents support their children through these last few days of summer and with the transition back to school? Here are some general strategies that parents can use to help ease their child’s anxiety as they embark on a new school year:
Children, both young and old, are extremely in-tune with their parent’s emotions. If you are openly anxious and worried about the transition back to school then your child will most likely pick up on that nervous energy. They will start believing that if mom and dad are worried then there must be a good reason. Try and stay calm.
Stay Positive and Normalize their Feelings
A new year often means new challenges and opportunities. Remind your children of their past successes as well as their skills. Communicating to your child that you believe in their strengths and capabilities can help boost their confidence and feelings of self-worth. Explain to your kids that what they are feeling is completely normal.
Visit the School
Familiarizing yourself with your new surroundings can remove a lot of undue stress. If your child is entering into a new school, go for a tour. Locate your classroom, gym and cafeteria. Getting lost on the first day is very common. If you know where some important landmarks are located, you are already ahead of the game.
Meet with your Teacher(s)
If you know who your teachers will be in advance, it can be helpful to book a meeting with them before the start of the school year. Have your child prepare some questions that they may want to ask their teacher, for example, how to access extra help if needed or how to let the teacher know if certain academic or social issues arise. Allowing your child to prepare and ask questions will encourage your child’s building of autonomy and self-confidence.
Meeting with the School Guidance Counsellor
If your child requires special school accommodations, it will be important to meet with the school guidance counsellor to organize a plan, or at least get the ball rolling, prior to the start of school. Creating a realistic and structured plan can relieve a lot of stress and worry. If the plan meets the child’s needs, they will feel that they have been taken seriously and supported by their school.
Be Available to Talk to your Kids
You are the expert on your children and the most important support system in their lives. Frequently reminding your children that you are always available to talk about both the good and the bad opens the door for communication. Put down your cell phone, turn off your computer and television and make sure that every day you devote some quality time to be with your kids. They need to know that they are your number one priority.
Lindsay Ross is a clinical social worker working in private practice in Toronto, Ontario. For more information on her services, please feel free to contact her at (647) 501-7220 or at firstname.lastname@example.org