Change is difficult for most of us. For some children, the changes that come with the start of a new school year can create distress and worry. Parents have an important role in helping their children face this transition:
Remind your child of other new situations that they have successfully faced in the past. Connect these to the new school year.
Acknowledge the concerns but do not dwell on the worry with your child. Talk about the change in positive terms. Be realistic and honest about upcoming challenges but also emphasize the positive aspects of this new adventure.
Identify specific aspects of the new year that are concerning and address each one. Eg. “I didn’t do well in math last year and I heard that this teacher is hard”. Response: “We can review and practice your math skills for the rest of the summer. If you’re having difficulty after the year starts, we will arrange for you to work with (relative/neighbor/tutor) for extra help.” Or “I’m worried I won’t be able to open my locker” Response: “We will buy a lock and practice opening it so you’re ready. If you’re having trouble, there will be adults to help you learn to use your lock during the first few weeks of school”
Remind your child that they are not the only one feeling nervous about the changes. Their peers are all facing the same changes and many of them will also be nervous.
Reassure your child that there are adults in the school who care about them and will help them when needed. It is important that your child understand that you are not their only source of assistance and comfort if they are having difficulty.
When you’ve received the assignment or schedule, contact the school (principal or counselor) to see if you can arrange to meet the teacher(s) or walk through the schedule and see where they will be spending most of their day.
If your child is experiencing worry which is affecting their sleep or causing physical symptoms such as stomach aches or head aches, you should enlist the assistance and support of the teacher and/or school counselor to ensure that support will be available for them during the school day. Allowing your child to avoid anxiety producing situations can lead to continued avoidance of uncomfortable situations and future difficulties. If the anxiety continues, consider additional assistance from a mental health counselor.
As a parent, your support and encouragement is vital to your child’s emotional growth and development. Helping your child work through the worry associated with this change will help them develop confidence and important skills for facing other new situations.