We all expect that our children will be excited and a little bit nervous about the first day of school. The first step to calming fears is identifying them. Here are ten things that make kids anxious about school:
Whether your child is facing the first day in a new grade or the first day in a new school, it's normal to feel nervous in a new situation. Talk about what the first day of school will be like. “When children know what to expect, they experience less anxiety about a situation,” explains School Psychologist Erin L. Enyart, Ed. S.. Remind your child that everyone feels a little anxious, and allow time for him to adjust. Point out that pretty soon, the situation will be routine and comfortable. If possible, adjust your schedule so that you have extra time with your child, especially right after school, for the first few days.
Kids worry that their schoolwork will be too hard, they won’t be able to keep up, or they won’t know the correct answer when called on in class. Remind your child that everyone makes mistakes, then praise her best efforts.
Many kids are scared of testing situations. They worry ahead of time, and are unable to perform on the day of the test. One way to help is to offer to help your child study so he feels well prepared. Remind him that he knows the information, and that you are confident he will do well.
Kids worry about fitting in, making friends, what others think of them, being teased, and being left out. Encourage your child to face, rather than avoid, social situations, and talk about ways to make friends. According to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), teaching children social skills, problem solving, and conflict resolution supports good mental health.
Some kids worry about whether or not they’ll be able to earn all A’s in math, make the honor roll, or maintain a certain grade point average. Remind your child that you do not expect perfection.
Some kids become anxious or stressed out when they feel that their school environment is unorganized, or that classroom expectations are unreasonable. The NASP suggests that parents can help kids learn to deal constructively with challenging situations by offering to help come up with a solution together when your child tells you about a problem.
Making the team
Whether your child wants to make the cheerleading squad, get a part in the school play, or simply not be the last one picked for kickball at recess, it is important to remind him that not everyone succeeds every time. There are always other opportunities to be involved or be a part of a team. Practice together: fluff the pompons, rehearse the lines, or roll the ball to help your child master the skills of his choice.
Kids just want to fit in, and they may worry about what their classmates expect from them. Encourage your child to talk about his concerns. Putting his fears into words may be helpful. Listen, but in most situations, the NASP says, “resist the urge to jump in and fix a problem for your child—instead, think it through and come up with possible solutions together. Problem-solve with kids, rather than for them. By taking an active role, kids learn how to tackle a problem independently.”
Kids worry about others tormenting them in some way, and this can be extremely upsetting. Take their concern seriously. Explain that bullies feel powerful when they upset other students, and talk about ways to cool down without giving the bully the reaction he wants. Have your child practice ignoring teasing remarks, walking away, and getting an adult.
According to Kidshealth.org, sometimes the reason a child doesn’t want to go to school “actually has nothing to do with the school. They may feel they’re needed at home because a parent is stressed or depressed, or because of something else affecting the family. If that’s the case, the answer involves addressing the family issue.”
Enyart says if the fears persist into the school year, inform your child's teacher. At most schools, a guidance counselor, social worker, or school psychologist are available to talk with children and help them overcome these fears. There are also counseling groups led by these school staff members which address children’s needs.