Saturday, April 29, 2017 | ePaper

Learning to deal with first day fears

  • Print
Bill Burns :
As the first day of school approaches, you're excited about all the new adventures your child will experience - but she's not. Although she may not be able to explain why, she's anxious and unhappy about the whole thing. What's the matter?
"The overarching issue is fear of the unfamiliar," says Robyn Silverman, Ph.D., author of the Powerful Words Character Development program, a resource for after-school teachers, coaches, and instructors. "The key to helping your child is to make the unfamiliar, familiar. The more you can do that ahead of time, the less fearful she'll be."
Here are Silverman's tips for helping your child deal with back to school anxieties.
Know what to look for. Watch for these signs as back to school week approaches:
Clinginess in younger children
Dramatic changes in eating habits
Complaints about feeling sick or achy
Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, or excessive sleeping
Reverting to younger behaviors, such as baby talk
Aggression toward other kids, or unusual temper tantrums
Withdrawal or lingering sadness
Hesitation to talk about school or back to school preparations
Help him label his fear. Unidentified fears are the most difficult to overcome. The more clearly your child can identify his fear, the better you'll be able to help him deal with it.
Start practicing the routine now. As summer winds down, have your child start her mornings and end her evenings as if she were already back in school. Have her get up and have breakfast by a certain time, and set out her clothes for the next day at bedtime. "Being disorganized or late are two major stressors for kids," Silverman says. "Getting her into a rhythm early will eliminate a lot of worrying."
Review his school schedule with him ahead of time. Pick up a copy of your child's daily class schedule as soon as you can, and look it over together. When he knows what classes he'll be taking, and at what times and where, he'll be much more at ease.
Role-play a school day. Pretend you are your child's teacher or another student in his class. Choose a part of the day to act out, such as snack time or recess. Make it fun for him - he may even want to pretend to be the teacher himself.
Remind her that it's normal to be nervous. Assure her that all the other kids are having similar feelings. Tell her how you felt on your big first days, and all the fun things you still remember.
Visit the school before the first week. Walk the halls with your child, and point out the appealing things you see, like creative art on the walls or sports banners in the gym. Let your younger kids play for awhile on their new playground.
Encourage "courage." Remind your child of the challenges she's already overcome that once made her nervous, such as joining a team or performing at her first piano recital. "Refer to these accomplishments as things she's already conquered," Silverman suggests.
Keep the lines of communication open. Encourage your child to express how he's feeling about the approaching year, but don't push. Keep in mind that "the one who's anxious might just be you," Silverman says. If so, don't create unnecessary anxiety for him by telling him you're worried. If you need to talk about your own feelings, share them with your spouse or a friend.
Point out the positives. Remind your child of the fun she'll have with old friends, and the adventure of making new friends. Talk about the sports and activities she'll get to do. If she enjoys science, point out the experiences she'll have in her new grade level, such as studying about space or using a Bunsen burner.
Make new friends ahead of time. If you've moved to a new area, or your child is starting a new school where he doesn't know anyone, help him meet some classmates before his first day. Request a class list from the school, and approach one or more of the neighborhood parents about setting up a time to hang out. "He may not find his best friend this way," Silverman says, "but he'll be a lot less anxious that first day."
With all the new people, places, situations and schedules your child will face during back to school week, it's likely he'll be anxious about something. By helping him address his fears to make the unfamiliar, familiar, you'll enable him to overcome his anxiety and begin a successful and enjoyable new year.

More News For this Category

Lack of teacher diversity contributing to education attainment gap

Lack of teacher diversity contributing to education attainment gap

Richard Conklin :A recently released study by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics found that economically disadvantaged black male students who had at least one black teacher in third,

Three alternative approaches for correcting student misbehaviour

Three alternative approaches for correcting student misbehaviour

Jim Paterson :Three popular new ideas in education that might help resolve discipline issues are closely linked, experts say, and support each other in expansive school-wide plans or in

The unmotivated student

The unmotivated student

Dr. Ken Shore :A motivational problem is not always easy to define, although teachers usually have no trouble recognizing it: The unmotivated student is the one whose attitude toward

Higher Math in lower grades: Hurting or helping kids?

Higher Math in lower grades: Hurting or helping kids?

Cindy Donaldson :Every parent wants to see her child keep up with peers, and these days that means taking algebra in the eighth grade. But sometimes we forget that

The homework debate

The homework debate

Johanna Sorrentino :Every school day brings something new, but there is one status quo most parents expect: homework. The old adage that practice makes perfect seems to make sense

A special learning journey cut short

A special learning journey cut short

Charity Chimungu Phiri :When building a house, it's critical to lay a strong foundation. The same applies to education, with studies showing that children who attend early learning centers

Staying fit while studying

Staying fit while studying

Joanna Hughes :While the demands of academia can often feel more intense than a full-time job, some other commitments are of equal importance. One item deserving your time and

Making the most of textbook reading?

Making the most of textbook reading?

Joanna Hughes :The typical college student reads at a rate of 450 words per minute, according to the results of a speed-reading study by Staples. The world speed reading

Is your future flexible?

Is your future flexible?

Elizabeth Koprowski :The business world is ever-changing and smart professionals know that they need to adapt to new trends, adopt new skills, and remain flexible in their career outlook

How to survive an enduring career

How to survive an enduring career

Alyssa Walker :It's like riding on a subway without holding onto anything for balance: the consistent shifting and evolution of your place and space on the train mirrors the