“Summertime done come and gone
My oh My”
My oh my, indeed! For most children living in Pennsylvania, these are the last few days of freedom before that first bell rings and the school year gets underway. As that hour quickly approaches, Understood.org (an excellent resource for parents with children challenged by learning and attention issues) has some tips to help calm the first-day jitters for grade school students — advice that can be applied to every student beginning a new school year:
First, many children approach the first day of school with varying levels of anxiety. Simply asking them a vague “What’s wrong?” seldom results in a helpful answer. Instead, parents need to focus on feelings:
Young kids don’t always have the words to express their emotions. And certain learning and attention issues can make it even more difficult. What you might get from your child instead of conversation is acting out or being cranky.
Give your child opportunities to talk by saying things like, “You seem to be very grumpy lately, and that’s not like you. Are you thinking about the first day of school?” or “Going back to school can be scary. Is there something you’re worried about?”
If it’s possible to get your hands on a list of children in your child’s class, that can remove one piece of uncertainty:
If there are kids she likes in her class, she may look forward to seeing them. If there are kids she doesn’t like or has a hard time with, you can brainstorm ways of dealing with them to give her some control over the situation.
New routines can cause a lot of anxiety for children, so take a little time this week, before school even starts, to “go through the drill” and prepare for day one:
Walking through the new daily routine in advance can help, even it’s the same as last year’s.
Go over the morning drill—what time she needs to get up, when you’ll leave the house, where and when the bus will arrive. Do the same with the afternoon schedule—when school ends, who will pick her up at the bus stop, when she’ll do homework. Factor in afterschool activities, too. And if possible, schedule a school visit before the new year begins. This way your child can get used to the layout of the school and classroom ahead of time.
Read more advice to help kids make it through the first day of grade school at Understood.org here, including rehearsing first-day interactions with teachers and peers, and reassuring them that there will be lots of the people — teachers, administrative staff, paraprofessionals, counselors, other parents — in the school to provide support and safety.
Tomorrow on The PediaBlog, we’ll look at calming middle school jitters.