For some kids, "back to school" conjures sunny thoughts of shiny new school shoes, spanking-new lunchboxes and happy reunions with old classmates. For others, it brings a sense of dread: an end to freewheeling summer fun, a return to the pressures of school work, a fear of the unknown - a new classroom, a new teacher, new classmates, new expectations, and sometimes even a new school.
Whether your child is just starting preschool or is a veteran student heading to kindergarten or beyond, the beginning of the school year can be a stressful time. Here are 10 great ways to alleviate anxiety about school and start the year right:
- Meet the teacher. See if you can set up a meeting with your child's teacher before the school year begins so that your child can get a sense of the person she'll be learning from each day. Some preschool teachers schedule home visits so that students, teachers and parents can get to know each other a bit and hopefully establish a bond. Kindergarten or elementary school teachers may take the time over the summer to write a letter introducing themselves and expressing excitement about the coming year. Make sure to take advantage of any of these opportunities. Have your child show her teacher a favorite toy during a home visit, or sit together to read and discuss a teacher's letter. If your school doesn't offer any early introductions, ask if you and your child can visit the classroom a few days before school starts to get acquainted with the teacher and classroom.
- Find some friends. It can be immensely helpful to a child to have a friend - or even just a familiar face - in the classroom on the first day of school. If your school circulates a list of students, try contacting a family who lives near you to set up a play date for your kids before school begins. If they don't, call the school and ask to be put in touch with another family in your child's class. You also might put the word out to neighbors and friends, and on the playground or community listservs, asking to meet classmates of your child. These early connections are not only useful for children, but for parents as well.
- Hit the books while it's still summer. Books that deal with the fears, thrills and challenges of school can be a useful tool for a child who may not be able to express her own concerns. Some good choices include "Chrysanthemum," by Kevin Henkes, in which a girl with an unusual name learns to embrace what's special about her, even if it may be different from the rest of the group; "I Am Too Absolutely Small for School," by Lauren Child, in which an older brother helps his younger sister overcome her school jitters; and "The Kissing Hand," by Audrey Penn, in which a raccoon who is nervous about starting school finds that his mother's love stays with him all day. For elementary-school age kids, Beverly Cleary's classic "Ramona the Pest" series and the Junie B. Jones books, by Barbara Park, are great options.
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