It’s important for parents to acknowledge that back-to-school is a transition period and can be a major cause of stress and anxiety in families. So, what’s a parent to do? Don’t panic, have a plan, and stay focused on the positive outcomes of this change.
First, parents should be aware of the Big-3 school related transitions and the common fears that go with them.
Big-3 Transitions Top Fears
1. Kindergarten/1st grade Kids are afraid of being separated from their parents
2. Jr. High/Middle School Kids are afraid they won’t make any friends/be accepted
3. Graduating from High School Kids are afraid of transitioning to successful independence
By being aware of these transitions parents can pay extra attention to their kids when they need it most. However, these and other fears can occur for any student going back to school in any grade, so lets talk about what parents can do.
1. Talk it out before the big day. It’s best to discuss these fears in the week prior to the first day of school as you are naturally preparing to return to school. Bringing up fears too early can cause more anxiety than needed.
2. A good warm-up helps avoid injury. By getting kids on a sleep-wake schedule that matches their upcoming school schedule you’ll help them avoid the shock that the first day of school can cause. Do this for one week only, trying it longer than that isn’t likely to be any more beneficial and may cause a rebellion for kids who want to enjoy the end of their summer vacation.
3. I’ll miss you mommy. (Transition #1) Separation anxiety at this time of year is common, especially in younger students, so…
Visit the school prior to the first day and for younger students stop and play on the school playground a few times.
During the week prior to school make sure you visit the classroom, meet the teacher, and walk around the building so it will feel more familiar on the first day.
Keep your morning routine predictable and goodbyes short. After you say goodbye, the teacher can distract your child by involving him/her in a fun activity or asking him/her to be a helper.
Be on time for drop-off and pick-up; being late will increase your child’s stress level.
A transition object such as a favorite pocket-sized toy can calm some younger children.
For Jr. High and High School students it may help to print a map of the school and write down their class schedule on a small card that they can carry in their pocket.
Be positive yourself – don’t let your child see that you’re worried.
4. What if nobody likes me? (Transition #2) Prior to the first day of school and during the first couple of weeks parents can help their kids contact a student or two from their class for a play-date. This works well for older students also, just make sure to not refer to it as a “play-date” if your child is Jr. High. Making friendships outside of the school day helps kids feel confident knowing their friends will be there in class.
Use empathy. Let your child know that feeling nervous and scared is normal, tell them a story about your first day, but make sure to include that it worked out well.
Talk about what specific things (behaviors) your child can do at recess, lunch, and in between classes to be friendly with other students.
Let the teacher know if your child is especially shy and ask him/her to assist your child in navigating peer relationships.
5. I’m ready to be on my own, I think. (Transition #3) With new high school graduates, sit down and talk with them about their hopes and dreams, help them talk about goals and teach them to write them down. Get them to talk about what their friends are doing and help them brainstorm solutions to potential roadblocks. Whether or not your child is going off to college or working let them know that you’ll continue to be available to help them. However, don’t be a helicopter parent who hovers and controls their decisions. Let them know you’re available and ask them how they’d like you support them.
Tips just for parents:
If school was really difficult for you, don’t assume it will be for your child. Do the following…
1. Be confident that this will be a great school year; kids will take your lead.
2. Be well rested, especially in the week leading up to school.
3. Know your limitations as a parent and involve others to help as needed.
4. Plan ahead; don’t save shopping until the last minute.
5. During the first week kids are back in school, do something nice just for you
Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men” by Steve Biddulph
Thanks for checking out today’s show. Make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast so you can receive our updated content as soon as it goes live! Finally, if you haven’t already done so, will you take a moment and leave us an honest rating on iTunes? That will be extremely helpful.
Lastly we’d love to hear how the podcast has been for you so far. We’re getting close to 50 episodes and we want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your podcast listening experience when you take the time to listen to The Shrink Show. Please leave us a comment below and let us know how you feel about the show. What you like, what you dislike and how we can improve. We are eager to bring you the best content every week. Please let us know in the comment section below!
Thanks again for spending time out of your day listening to our show. We appreciate you and wish you all the best. – Dr. Matt & Tysen