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School Jitters

Ease Your Childs Back-to-School Jitters — What you can do to help your little scholar feel better about the coming school year. Even if you don’t know exactly why your child is anxious, here are a few things you can do to help him or her feel better about the coming school year:

  • Talk about your first-day-of-school experiences — If you don’t remember, have your kids ask their grandparents what they remember about your first day of school. “It almost doesn’t matter if the experiences were positive or negative,” Cohen says. “It’s sharing them that’s important because it makes your child see that this happens to everyone.”

  • Don’t assume your child is anxious — Physiologically, there is little difference between anxiety and excitement, Cohen says. Just because you remember being anxious about school doesn’t mean that your child is. Asking about the bus 100 times could be enthusiasm instead of anxiety.

  • Make sure your child knows at least one person at her new school — If your child is starting kindergarten this year, get a class list from the office and arrange a couple of playdates with kids from your child’s class. Knowing that there will be a familiar face at school helps to ease first-day jitters.

  • Visit the school and do a test-run of the route to school — This helps to minimize the fear of the unknown.

  • Cherish the end of the summer — Even for children who love the classroom, going to school is a draining process. Cohen suggests that parents use the time at the end of the summer to fill the child up – not by scheduling as much as possible, but by making time to just hang out and spend time together.

  • Role-play — Play “school” with your younger children. Let them be the teacher – you be the student. Make sure that you include a drop-off and reunion scenario in the day. With older kids, try to get them to talk to you about what they think might be hard situations in the coming year, then have them do a trial run with you.

  • Use humor — This works with all kids, but especially well with middle-school students. A well-placed hand on the hip and an exaggerated, exasperated question such as “Is there anything you can think of that may be only half-bad this year at school?” can go a long way to breaking up the tension your child might feel about returning to school.

If your child seems to really loathe going back to school, there may be something a little deeper than first-day jitters. If your child has a history of social and academic struggles, talk to the teachers, principals and guidance counselors about what kind of help is available.

Easing Back-to-School Jitters

As the new school year looms on the horizon, the questions start: “Mom, what’s the bus going to be like?” “Do you think my new teacher will be as nice as the one I had last year?” Or, maybe your child will simply act up every time you set foot in the school-supplies section of your local department store.

If the mention of school means repeated questions or acting out, it may not be Calm those fears.

7 Ways to Ease Your Child’s Back-to-School Anxiety that your kids are grumpy that the leisure of summertime is coming to a close – they might have a case of the new-school-year butterflies. The trouble is, even if kids are worried about returning to school, many can’t articulate what exactly they are worried about, says Larry Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting and an advisor to the Lego Learning Initiative. “That can be confusing for parents who know there really isn’t anything to worry about,” Cohen adds. “Parents end up having to make their best guess, because they can’t just grill their kids until they tell them.”

Here are some of the common reasons children may be anxious about the new school year:

  • Fear of the Unknown — For kids who are starting school for the first time, or even kids who are making a transition from one school to another, just not knowing what to expect can cause stress. “This is especially true for kids who are starting kindergarten,” Cohen says. “It’s so unknown, it’s such a big step, and adults have built it up so much, kids can become anxious about what this big, strange new thing is going to be like.”

  • Social Stress — Kids who have a hard time making friends may worry that they’ll be alone in the coming school year. This is especially tough for kids who have been teased or excluded in prior school years.

  • Following Up a Good Year — If your child had a great school year last year, he or she could be worried that the coming school year won’t live up to the last one.

  • Mourning What’s Lost — Your child could just be upset by the coming loss of unstructured summer time.

  • Fear of Failure, Pressure to Excel — “Kids who haven’t done well in school often worry that they’ll be embarrassed or humiliated or that they’ll fail,” Cohen says. “But children who do well in school have that anxiety at least as much as kids who fail, and many times more so because they put so much pressure on themselves.”

Getting Out the Door

For most families, back-to-school means a new schedule complete with homework, meetings, practices and new activities. Remembering everything that has to be ready to go each day can turn your mornings into a mad dash. It doesn’t have to be this way.

With a little organization, you really can make this the year your family commits to making every morning a smooth one. Experiment with these tips, adapted from At-A-Glance and Stacy M. DeBroff’s The Mom Book (The Free Press, 2002), to find out which ones work best with your bunch:

The Night Before

  • Create a launching area. Whether it’s a table by the door, the kitchen counter, or the lumpy chair in the living room, have one designated place where your kids put the items they’ll need the next day. In the morning, just grab and go.

  • Choose an outfit at night. Lay it out the night before – right down to the socks and accessories.

  • Have the lunches ready, labeled, and in the fridge for everyone who takes one.

It may take a couple of weeks, but force yourself to follow this routine. The entire family will reap the benefits.

Family Calendar

  • Invest in a master family calendar. Make sure there’s plenty of space to write appointments and daily reminders.

  • Hang the calendar in a central location. Make sure everyone in the family uses it. TIP: Don’t answer questions about dates and times – send them to the calendar.

  • Nothing is too minor to be written down. Tests, parties, big games, concerts, promised family time, days school is closed – everything.

  • Make checking the calendar part of getting ready the night before. If the calendar says your son has a soccer game, then he’d better put his uniform in the launching area the night before.

  • Color code the entries on the calendar. Make colors stand for certain activities or assign a color to each of your children. Your daughter can then ignore anything on the calendar that isn’t written in green.

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