As the fun-filled days of summer wind down, most kids are beginning to get excited about going back to school. If your child will be attending a new school this year, he or she may also be feeling a little anxious. Discussing these things with your child can help to ease the transition into a new school. Here are 10 things that parents should plan on when it comes to easing their child's back to school anxiety:

First impressions count

We all know the old saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Explain this to your child, and discuss what type of impression he wants to make, not only with classmates, but also with teachers. Remind him to be friendly, make eye contact and listen when others are talking, and pay attention in class. Being comfortable with the way others view him will help your child feel better about this new situation.

Making friends

Remind your child of how to introduce himself and talk about ways to make friends, such as:
  • Ask questions about the other person.
  • Tell something interesting about yourself.
  • Talk about your hobbies, and find a common interest.
  • Invite the other person to play or to sit with you.
  • Smile.
  • Take turns.

National Board certified teacher Erika Acklin offers this reminder: “You have to be a good friend to make a new friend.” Remind your child to talk to different people, not just one group of kids, to meet as many people as possible, and always try to be nice to everyone.

Getting home

Discus how your child will get home at the end of the day, then do a practice run. Drive through the car circle and point out where you will pick him up, or walk the route from the school or bus stop together.  

Becoming involved

Discuss what teams or clubs your child might like to join. Being involved in school activities is a great way to make friends and feel a sense of belonging. Some groups start meeting or practicing over the summer. Be sure to find out how soon your child can join so he doesn’t miss out, and can start meeting people right away.

What to expect

Talk with your child about what to expect at the new school. If he is entering middle school for the first time, talk about the differences he will find, such as changing classes, having a locker, changing clothes and showering during gym, and selecting some of his courses. The fewer surprises your child finds on the first day of school, the better. If there is a friend or neighbor that attends the same school, try to arrange a time for the kids to get together and talk.

Ways to get off to a good start

Discuss what things your child feels would help her get off to a good start on the first day of school. A few ideas to calm nerves in the final days of summer might include: touring the school, finding classrooms, locating her locker, and meeting the teacher. Ideas for the big day might be a favorite breakfast, getting up early to avoid rushing, choosing an outfit ahead of time, having her backpack ready, leaving early enough to meet up with a friend before class, or having time to visit with other kids at the bus stop. Younger kids will probably say they want you to walk them to class, so consider making adjustments to your schedule if possible.

Fears or concerns

Ask what your child is worried about, and find ways to calm these fears. Is your child concerned about eating alone? Suggest that he talk with several people in the class right before lunch, then walk to the cafeteria together. Anxious about standing out because of the wrong clothes? Look through yearbooks or the school website to see what other kids wear. Worried about getting lost? Tour the school or study a map ahead of time. Afraid that no one will talk to him in the cafeteria or at recess? Pack a few extra granola bars or other healthy snacks for him to share.

After-school plans

Find out what your child would like to do after school the first day, and make plans that you can both look forward to all day. Be sure you do something that allows you to talk about the day, and let her know ahead of time that you are anxious to hear everything!

Previous schools

Discuss what things your child liked about his old school. Check out the new school’s website, look out through old yearbooks in the library, or talk with students and staff members to find out about similar opportunities. This will help connect positive experiences and memories to the new school.

Goals

Ask what your child hopes to accomplish this school year. Then, work together to set goals that he can achieve easily to build positive experiences at the new school. Goals might include:

  • Make 3 friends this week.
  • Get 100% on the first math quiz.
  • Be able to open my locker every time.
  • Participate in the science fair.
  • Feel at home at my new school!