School is starting. For some lucky parents they have children that are excited and looking forward to the first day of school. But for some of us, we have children that are stressed and freaked out about a new class, new teacher, new expectations and new rules. And if you have recently moved or switched schools, than the anxiety level can be even greater.
Regardless of the age and grade, some deep breathing and patience on part of the parent is required. Then, put an action plan in place to help ease your child’s anxiety.
Start planning months head, if possible. If the child will be attending a new school in the fall, see if you can visit that school DURING the previous school year. This is particularly helpful if you have relocated, or will be moving up from elementary to middle school, or middle school to high school.
“It will allow the child to become familiar with the building and the new stimuli that the child will encounter when they begin to attend,” said Maria, mother of a fifth grade autistic child and a third grader.
If not able to visit the school in advance, try to obtain pictures that can help familiarize your child with the school including rooms (gym, classroom, music and art rooms) and teachers (principal, secretary, special education teachers, etc.) and put together a photo album the child can look through over the summer.
After you learn who the child will have as a teacher, and aids, etc., try to arrange for meetings prior to the school year.
“Give the child the chance to meet their new teacher -- all of them, if more than one -- and the other adults they will be seeing in the school,” said Maria. “Give the child the opportunity to ask any questions they have of each of these new people.”
If the child is old enough, and able to express herself, allow her to share with the new adults what things might help her feel better when she is upset, angry or scared.
“For a child that is extra anxious, I would have the child write out, or dictate, everything that is making them anxious about school, and add what are their hopes, goals, fears, etc.,” said Maria, adding that the child can then share this information with the teacher(s). She even suggested videotaping it.
“Give the video of your child to the teacher that will be instructing them. This video will not only tell the teacher about the child but will allow them to see how the child moves, talks and interacts,” said Maria.
Take time to fill in the teacher on your child quirks.
“Collaboration and communication between all parties is awesome,” advised Amy, a kindergarten teacher and mother of two children, ages 18 and 21. “When parents/teachers collaborate regarding concerns and issues, it can only mean positive and successful outcomes for the child.”
If you have a child who is anxious, sharing that with the new teacher ahead of time can be helpful.
“To me, teachers need to realize this is a scary time. Not only are the students full of anxiety, but also the parents are too. In realizing this, it is important to offer lots of love, patience, and understanding,” said Amy.
Keep in mind that all people have anxiety when put into a new situation. As a parent of an anxiety-ridden child, it’s helpful to relieve and remove as many fears as possible to help your child perform to the best of his ability.
“No one can do their best if they are tackling fear,” reminded Maria. “Fear of the unknown can be extremely intimidating, especially for a child who depends on the adults around them. By removing a lot of the unknown, the child can regain their confidence in themselves and have a much easier transition into their new environment.”
Quick Tips on Beating Back to School Anxiety
-Discuss with the child in advance when school will begin and what to expect
-Review with the child how he/she will get to and from school
-Visit the school in advance, preferably the year prior while it’s still filled with students and teachers
-Meet with the teacher before the school year to introduce the student, and yourself, to the teacher
-Let the teacher know what triggers your child’s anxiety, and what eases it
-Schedule some quiet time at home before school starts, and at the end of the first day of school, to give your child a chance to relax and calm down