9 ways to help your child with first-day anxiety

Posted at 10:00 AM, Aug 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 10:16:20-04

Back-to-school time can mean back to stress for many kids. For most children, summertime is a season to decompress and have a break from the educational and often emotional worries that happen during the school year. This is especially the case for children who suffer from anxiety.

In order to ease the transition from summertime to school, here are nine ways to help your child cope with the anxiety of the first day of school.

1. Practice

You might want to spend every minute you can with your child, especially if she or he is going away to a boarding school. However, this may cause more harm than good because your child will not have had experience being away from you.

Practice by setting up a weekend at grandma’s house or a few days at a summer camp. Doing this will give your child the confidence to function just fine away from home.

2. Don’t bring up the obvious

If you know your child suffers from anxiety, bringing it up constantly might create more anxiety. For instance, saying, “I know school is scary for you,” might bring up those feelings of fear, negating anything you say afterward.
Instead, talk about the wonderful things that will happen at school, and bring up things your child has enjoyed in the past.

3. Role play

The first day of school brings a lot of unknowns for kids, and a good way to help ease those worries is through role play.

Walk your child through the events of the day. Talk about taking the bus, lining up for school and hanging up backpacks. Perhaps practice playing get-to-know-you games, so your child will know what to say when the activities inevitably come up.

Practice what you will do when you meet again, so your child has a picture in mind of reuniting with you to help get through the day.



4. Participate in back-to-school activities

Most schools are aware of the anxiety that comes with this time of year and have organized back-to-school activities to ease the transition. Take advantage of these as a chance for your child to be introduced to the new teacher, see the classroom or dorm room, walk the hallways or campus and meet new friends.

These functions are designed to get your child excited about going back and will likely do just that.

5. Have social get-togethers

For many children, going back to school is less about academic stress and more about social concerns.
Take time during the summer for your child to have social interactions with kids who will be going to the same school. This could include setting up playdates or signing up for summer activities. By taking the time to let your child develop friendships outside of school, it will lessen the social stress once school rolls around.

6. Go shopping

A great way to get your child excited about the year is buying a few new things, especially if your child picks them out. Maybe it’s a new backpack filled with school supplies or a few outfits to wear to help with confidence.
When your child sees these exciting new items hanging in the closet or sitting by the door, it will be a positive reminder of the days ahead.

7. Make the goodbye short and sweet

Goodbyes are hard, more so when they are dragged out. You have prepared for a long time, and it is time to let them go. Give a quick hug, “I love you,” and a “see you later.” Your child may start crying, but have confidence in your preparation, and let go.

8. Pack a piece of home

Even with all the preparation for school, once your child is away, chances are homesickness will arise at one time or another. This is where packing a piece of home can help.

Maybe it is a stuffed animal, a note from you in a lunch sack or a family picture for a bedroom at boarding school. Having a piece of home will remind your child of the happiness that awaits when the day or term is over.

9. Welcome home

When the day or time away is over, welcome your child home with open arms and a smile, so she or he knows home will always be waiting after a great time at school.