First Days of School: Dealing with Anxieties

First days of school anxieties are natural for any student each year they begin a new school year. For my kindergartner, his worries are less and less as the first days of school become a memory. Meeting new students at the school where I work, I often deal with students who are apprehensive starting at a new high school. Easing first day of school worries at home and at work has surely kept me busy the last few weeks. 

I thought I'd share the article below to help my parent friends in supporting their children as a new school year begins. I hope your kids had a great start just like my kindergartner did!

Coping Skills When Children are  Having a Hard Time Adjusting

Anxious feelings are normal and expected during times of transition or change. This is especially true for children and teens going back to school. This transition can be stressful and disruptive for the entire family. Prior to the first day of school, your anxious child may cling, cry, have temper tantrums, complain of headaches or stomach pains, withdraw, and become sullen or irritable.

Here are some general strategies parents can use to deal with back-to-school worries:
1. Look after the basics. Nobody copes well when they are tired or hungry. Anxious children
often forget to eat, don’t feel hungry, and don’t get enough sleep. Provide frequent and
nutritious snacks for your child.
2. Build in regular routines, so that life is more predictable for your child. These routines can
involve the morning and bedtime habits, as well as eating schedules.
3. Encourage your child to share his or her fears. Tell your child that it is normal to have
concerns. Set up a regular time and place to talk. Avoid giving reassurance. Instead, problem solve and plan! Encourage your child to think of ways to solve his or her problem. This gives
you the opportunity to coach your child on how to cope.
4. Role-play with your child. Sometimes role-playing a certain situation with your child can
help him or her make a plan, and feel more confident that he or she will be able to handle the
5. Focus on the positive aspects! Encourage your child to re-direct attention away from the
worries, and towards the positives.

A couple days before school:
1. Go to school several times – walking, driving, or taking the bus.
2. For young children taking the school bus, describe and draw out the bus route, including
where the bus goes and how long it takes to get to school. Talk about bus safety.
3. For new students, take a tour of the school. Show your child the classrooms, the cafeteria,
and the bathrooms. If possible, meet your child’s teacher with your child present.
4. Ask your child to help choose the outfits for the first week of school. Let your child wear
his or her favorite outfit on the first day.
5. Together with your child, pack up the schoolbag the night before, including treats.
6. For younger children who are nervous about separating, suggest taking a special object to
school that reminds him of home.
The first day of school:
7. Have your child go to school with a friend for the first couple of days.
8. Tell the teacher that your child is having some separation anxiety – most teachers are
experts in this area, and have years of experience!
9. Most importantly, praise and reward your child for brave behavior!