Beating the Back-to-School Blues

In a few weeks, buses will be taking the place of car rides to the beach. Back-to-school anxiety can affect the entire family. Kids are worrying about missing the bus, making new friends, and doing well in school. Their worrying may even lead to sleepless nights and stomachaches. Parents are beginning to worry about those hectic mornings, missed school buses and carpooling chaos. With all of this, how can anyone get excited about the first day of school?

Parents can help ease their children’s back-to-school anxiety by proactively addressing their children’s concerns.  Listed below are some tips that may help you set the tone for a successful transition from summer to the school.

  • About a week before school begins, have your child go to bed at the new school-night bedtime. Also, in order to give your child time to adjust to his/her new time schedule, set an alarm clock for the new wake-up time. This should allow plenty of time to adjust to the new schedule.
  • If your child will be taking the bus and has never ridden one before, see if you can obtain your child’s school bus route from the school.  You and your child can take the bus route so it will be familiar. Another good idea is to find out how long the bus ride will be so you can plan a handful of things that he/she can do on the bus in case shyness sets in and your child doesn’t want to talk to the other children.  Don’t drive your child to school on the first day is he/she will be taking the bus every day. This is a bad habit that can develop very easily.
  • For younger children, fears of getting lost in school is common. If this is the case, you may want to arrange a tour of the school before it opens so you can help your child find his/her classroom, the bathroom, the cafeteria or any other places he/she might fear they will get lost trying to find.
  • The night before the first day, let your child become involved in packing his/her lunch and picking out what he/she will wear. This will help start the morning on a calm note. A good habit to get into is have your child pack his/her book bag every night before they go to bed.  This way no one is rushing around in the morning trying to find stray items which can lead to anxiety.
  • If you feel your child will have separation anxiety, send a photo of the family in his/her backpack for the first week. Don’t prolong the good-bye. If your child does whine and cling, staying longer will only make it harder. Be firm, but friendly about separating.
  • And remember, be enthusiastic about the upcoming school year. If you show your child you are excited and confident, they will be too.

Children entering middle and high school also have anxiety. They are most worried about “fitting in,” making the sports team, keeping up with the academics and of course, peer pressure. Below are some suggestions on how to ease those worries.

  • As you might recall from your own high-school days, there were many distinct cliques and the pressure to fit in seems eternal. Encourage your child to follow extracurricular activities that are based on his or her own interest and abilities, not on whether or not joining a particular club will help him or her gain acceptance to a certain clique.
  • What kids wear and how they look is very important in middle and high school. There’s considerable pressure on girls to emphasize their sexuality in they way they dress. When mothers make sarcastic or critical remarks about their daughter’s appearance, it will put unnecessary strain on a relationship that may be stressed already. Try to hold back on the comments and pull out some of your pictures of you in high school instead.  You will both get a good laugh and maybe this will help you start a discussion with your daughter about how you coped with the anxieties about your appearance.
  • When your child reaches high school, academic competition is stronger. The coursework gets harder and homework gets much longer.  Teachers aren’t going to spoon feed the kids anymore. Assure your child that if he or she becomes confused or overwhelmed about any of the schoolwork, you are there to help. Tell him or her that you will do whatever it take to help him succeed, including hiring a tutor if necessary.
  • Bullying and teasing are of real concern to all children. If you notice your child withdrawing from the social and extracurricular world of school this may be a sign that he or she is being bullied. Encourage your child to talk to you about it and if you feel it is necessary, go to the school.
  • All children will be faced with peer pressure. When kids don’t want to be rejected by anyone or any group, they are confused about what to do if they are with kids offering them to join them in smoking, drinking, etc. By keeping open discussions at home (that you may have to initiate), your teen will be developing his or her own beliefs and values regarding these behaviors and will have that with them when they have to make a choice.