You can almost hear the music playing in the background as parents all over Fort McMurray walk their kids to bus stops, deliver them to classroom doors or simply wave them out the door as they head off to high school: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
While most parents, and lots of kids, look forward to the first day of school with excitement and anticipation, a few first-day jitters are perfectly normal for students, whether they’re working on finger painting or analyzing Shakespeare.
Kindergarten kids are nervous about what’s going to happen at school, in a new environment without the familiar comforts of Mom and Dad. Grade schoolers are concerned about who is going to be in their class, or if their teacher is going to like them. Junior high and high school bring with them a host of new worries – how will I fit in this year? Will the other kids in my class like me? All of these concerns are very common, and there’s a lot parents can do to help ease some of these normal back-to-school worries.
Kindergarten students worry about school because they are unfamiliar with the routines – they don’t know what’s going to happen. They are accustomed to their routine at home – snack at ten, lunch at noon, nap at two o’clock. School, on the other hand, is uncharted territory. What happens if I can’t find my spot? What if I have to go to the bathroom? Sit down with your child and find out what he’s concerned about. Calm your little guy’s nervousness by talking about the routines at school. Find out about school routines – when snack time is, when the recess bell rings, where his classroom is. Explaining these routines to your child will help him feel more secure, as he knows what’s coming. Reassure him that his teacher is there to help, and encourage him to ask her if he needs anything.
It can also be helpful for kids to talk through potentially scary scenarios and come up with solutions, but don’t overthink it – an attempt to allay potential trouble that might crop up down the road might actually cause your little one more stress in the long run. Address the issues that really have potential to upset your child, and reassure him that everything is going to be fine. Kids adjust amazingly fast, and what seems like a mountain today often turns out to be a molehill as the year goes on.
Grade-schoolers have different worries, but they can be upsetting nonetheless. They are often concerned about being in the same class as their friends. Usually when teachers make up class lists, they ensure that students are in the same class as at least one of their friends. Sometimes, however, due to large class sizes or late registrations, this isn’t possible. Reassure your child that they will make new friends. Go through possible ways to make a new friend, such as asking a new student if they want to eat lunch together, or approaching a fellow classmate who checks out the same library books your child likes to read. Giving your child coping strategies will help ease their anxiety – it’s easier to go into foreign territory when you have battle tactics at the ready.
To junior high and high school students, fitting in with peers is their utmost concern. They worry about whether their clothing is appropriate, who they will sit with or hang out with at lunch, which social group they will be a part of. Also, the higher grades bring the questions of lockers, complicated class schedules and having multiple teachers. Your child may wonder if they’re ready for all of this. At this stage, your child may resist your attempts to reassure them or talk to them about their fears, but there are things you can do. Allow your child to pick out their new school wardrobe, or better yet, buy a few new outfits and then wait a week – that way your child will have a better idea of what they want to wear this year, and what the trends are. Although your junior high student may be recalcitrant, talk to them about their worries and fears. Reassure them that you went through the same thing at their age, and that everything will work out ok. Although it may look like they aren’t listening, your words are getting through.
Above all, remember that kids are very resilient and they adapt quickly. By the end of September, most fears have been conquered and kids have adapted to the new routines, friends and tasks of a new year at school with confidence. If your child still seems overly anxious by the end of the first month, schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss what’s happening at home and come up with some solutions together for how you can make school a happier place for your child.