Thursday, 16 July 2015

Tips to Curb Back to School Anxiety

At the beginning of the year (our year starts in January), Megan started at a new school where she knew almost no one.

Despite being a confident and eager child, I still anticipated a fair amount of anxiety with the new venture.  Seeing that the new school year is drawing closer, I thought to share some ideas to help curb the "New School" or "Back to School" anxiety.

These ideas worked for us, and made the transition from one school to vacation to a new school much easier.

1.  On enrolling Megan into the new school, I took her to visit the school during an open day.  We were fortunate we arrived while the students were outside completing an obstacle course.  The teacher on duty invited Megan to join, and being a physical child, off she went.  This broke the ice (and it was a bit of a struggle to leave.)

2.  Once discovering who Megan's class teacher would be, I inquired by other moms to find someone whose daughter shared the same class teacher.  I then organised play dates so that Megan could form a relationship with some of her class mates.  This made the first day of school easier as she recognized other students and could join them in the activities.

3.  Before the first day, I made sure to mention and talk about the new school.  We said goodbye to her old teacher and school, reinforcing that she would not be attending the school anymore and therefore avoiding confusion at the beginning of the new year.  This also created an opportunity for her to speak about her concerns and fears of the new school.  I listened to her and validated her feelings.

4.  I marked the first day off on a calendar.  This gave her a visual to 'work towards'.  It meant that every morning when she woke up and looked at her calendar (which she does), she would be able to see how many days until school started.  Some morning she would come and express her excitement that school started in 13 more days; some days she would come and express a concern about the new school and some days she would say nothing.  This meant that she did not wake up one morning with the surprise of a new school.

5.  For the first few days of school (until she chose not to anymore), Megan would take her 'Bunny' with to school.  Bunny would sit on her lap to school, would give her a kiss goodbye and then would travel home with me.  That was all she needed.  Some children might choose to take their comfort object in with them - one of the other children left it in her bag (just knowing it was there was enough comfort).

This is "Bunny."  (You can see that her ear has been loved right off!)  She accompanied us to school for a few days until Megan was happy to leave her at home.

6.  And importantly (something I needed to tell myself over and over again), stay calm.  On that first day of school, make sure that you are calm.  Don't:

  • express anxiety, 
  • tell your child how much you are going to miss them, 
  • hang around longer than necessary,
  • speak to other parents, in front of your child, of your concerns,
  • cry (this can be done in the car once you are out of sight).
You need to be strong for your child and set the example, no matter how hard it is.

I would love to know some of your tips (as I still have to send Adam off to school one of these days and his personality might not be as forgiving as Megan's).

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