For many students, starting a new school can be an exciting adventure. The new sights, school uniforms, classrooms, playgrounds, teams, teachers, and friends can be a fresh start to an incredible academic voyage. However, others might not see their journey in such a positive light. Some students experience severe anxiety about going to a new school or being a student for the first time.
Starting at a new school is a HUGE deal. All of the newness from new rules and dress codes to a new set of expectations can make for a tremendous amount of anxiety in our children.
Good news for students and parents alike….school uniforms can alleviate the stress of deciding what to wear and can lower the cost of school clothes and don’t forget - it also puts everyone on the same playing field. No one has to worry about name brand clothes when you’re in dress code. So, rock those school logo’d polos and uniform pants with pride!
For a number of children, it will be the first time they will be away from their parents for a significant length of time. If you notice your student complains of not feeling well and continually asks to stay home from school, refuses to go to school, or talks to you about always being stressed or worried about school for a considerable amount of time, your child may be experiencing school related anxiety.
Thanks to Michelle LaRowe, childcare and professional nanny expert, below are some helpful tips to help successfully empower your student to manage their school transition:
PROVIDE A CONSISTENT ROUTINE.
When change is approaching, a good rule of thumb is always to keep what you can consistent. Consistency breeds feelings of safety and security. Develop a consistent morning and evening routine and a good bye routine for school drop off. Consider packing similar snacks and lunches each day and avoid any other lifestyle changes during the back to school transition period.
KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN.
Ask open ended questions about how your child is feeling. “How do you feel about starting school?" "Tell me about your friends" and “Do you have any concerns about school?” are all great conversation starters. Let your child know you are always available to listen and you want to know how she feeling.
Role playingis a great way to act out anxiety provoking situations. Acting out what to do if you have to go to the bathroom during class or what to do if another child is teasing you can help empower a child to navigate tough situations.
CREATE CLEAR EXPECTATIONS.
Communicate to your child when it is and when it is not acceptable to miss school and what your school behavioral expectations are. Reinforce school rules and teacher expectations by talking about them at home. It’s important to validate your child’s feelings, but not her behavior. For example, if your child is complaining of a headache because she doesn’t want to go to school, let her know that headaches happen sometimes, but usually go away shortly and aren’t a reason for staying home from school. Obviously if your child has real symptoms that signal a true illness and warrant staying home, by all means keep her home.
REACH OUT FOR HELP.
Talk to your child’s teacher, school nurse and health care provider if you sense your child may be having school related anxiety. They can provide resources and tools for helping you and your child to have a successful school year.
As a parent, it can be so tempting to rescue our children from scary situations or situations that require change. But doing so often reinforces that there is something that is scary enough to need rescuing from and that we don’t believe our child is capable of successfully navigating change. Helping our children face fears head on by empowering them with tools, resources and skill building measures to handle new situations will set them up for school success.