Helping Kids Cope with Anxiety of a New School
A new academic year at school can mean a lot of excitement. But this may not always be the case. If your child is starting a new school, whether due to a change of city or as they move into higher grades or as first-timer going to kindergarten, there is always some anxiety that’s bound to creep in. Some advance preparation can help to ease the stress and make for a smooth first week.
Describe What School Will be Like: Talk to your child and help them form a mental picture of what exactly will happen. They will meet teachers, they’ll have a classroom, they’ll be doing xyz activities etc. Even a conversation about the basic sequence of the day can make the first day less scary for kids
Do a Practice Run: Practice going on the actual route from your home to school, and show your child the school premises. Let them get accustomed to walking/driving the same route so it feels familiar.
Give them a Sense of Control: If you’re buying supplies like a bag, lunch box, notebooks, bottles etc., let your child decide the colour and pattern. Offering them choices in simple things like supplies gives them some feeling of control and may get them excited about using these.
Read Books About School: Books about starting a new school are a great way to get to the root of their anxieties. “First Day Jitters” by Julie Dannenberg, “I Am Absolutely Too Small for School” by Lauren Child can be good starting points. Read them with your child and ask questions about what they feel school will be like, or if there is anything they are particularly dreading.
Find Familiar Faces: Some schools have class meet-ups before the actual start of school, or some other children in the neighbourhood may be going to the same school. Try and schedule play dates with other kids so that your child has a few familiar faces in class.
Learn About the School Drop-off Policy: Find out exactly about what is allowed and what isn’t. For e.g. can one or both parents walk the child to the class, or how long can they stay etc. If your child has had separation anxiety in similar settings in the past then talk to the teachers before-hand and advise them on any coping tools that have worked (like a favourite book, or activity like colouring).
Most importantly, be available to hear first-hand from them how their first day (and first few weeks) went. You can even give them positive reinforcements by perhaps going out for a celebratory meal at the end of week one, and use this time to really listen to everything that your child experienced.
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