My kids are trying public school this year and, since we’ve homeschooled forever, it’s a huge change. It was their choice and while they’re definitely excited, they’re understandably nervous. We’ve been trying to make sure that we counterbalance that nervousness about starting a new school with lots of listening and answering questions they might have. Even though a lot of the “back to school” books are really geared toward kindergarteners, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that older kids get nervous about the first day of school too. Here are some of the things you can do to help your kids master their nerves this Fall.
Ways to Help Kids Starting a New School
Ask A Lot of Questions
Ask open-ended questions and truly listen to your child’s answers. Are they afraid, nervous, worried, or some other feeling? Ask them what makes them feel that way. Helping them talk out their feelings may make starting a new school a little less scary. Even your high-schooler is going to be nervous and anxious about starting a new school!
Take a Tour
If your child is going to a new school, help alleviate some of their fears by going to the school a few days before school actually starts. Try to visit while the teachers are there so your child can meet their teacher. They may be able to see where their desk will be and what the classroom and school layout is. Knowing a little more about the school and not feeling lost will make the first day of school easier on them. For our kids, the schools have all offered summer tours that have given them a chance to get in, see the layout, find their classrooms, and ask questions. Being able to physically walk through the buildings has really helped them a lot.
Do Some Review
The last thing your child probably wants to do is review math facts and reading over the summer, but it’s a great way to get their brains thinking about the academic skills they’ll be using at the start of the new year. Go over some of the work they did last year to help get them back up to speed. You might also try some online math games or apps to help them with basic math fact practice.
Talk to the Teacher
As a former classroom teacher, I totally understand the parent of the “new kid” to the school. So, if you can, try to meet the teacher and let your child talk with him or her before school starts. Knowing someone at a new school, even if it’s just the teacher, is sure to make your child feel more comfortable. A familiar face can ease a lot of anxiety!
Talk About Your Own First Day of School Anxiety
If you can remember how you felt when you moved from one school to another it may help your child feel better. Of course, you don’t want to make up a story in an attempt to change their feelings, but letting them know how you dealt with a similar issue may do just that. I’ve talked with my kids a lot about how I changed schools in 4th grade to attend a special program at another school in our district. And, since my kids are all going to the same schools I went to, I’ve shared some of my memories about my times at the school. Let me just note here that walking through my old high school with my soon-to-be sophomore son was one of the weirdest moments of my life.
Start the Routine Early
Practice makes progress (and less anxiety!), so, long before school starts, have your children practice getting their clothes ready the night before so everything is laid out for them in the morning. They will know when school starts how to get ready because they’ll be in the habit of preparing the night before. Start going to bed at “school night” bedtimes about two weeks before school starts too. It will make the first week of school less of a shock to their systems!
Be Open and Honest
The best thing to do though is to answer any questions your child may have openly and honestly. Will they have to change classes during the day? Will they have time to use the restroom between classes? What do they do if you forget to pick them up? These are some of the questions your child may have when starting a new school. Do what you can to alleviate their fears by answering their questions to the best of your abilities. If you don’t know the answers, don’t hesitate to contact the school to get the answers for them. The more they know, the more questions you can answer for them, the less anxious they’re going to be when they start their new school.
It’s normal for kids to feel uneasy and jittery when they’re starting a new school – or even going back to school in a new grade! By taking some time, asking questions, and listening to their answers, you will be able to understand how they’re feeling and what’s making them uneasy. Talk to them, find answers to their questions, and you may find that their new school jitters melt away. They will make it through the first day just fine.
But me? I’m a nervous wreck! Anyone have advice for a first time sending-them-off-to-school mom??