First day of school nerves and how to ease kids’ fears
September will be the first time many kids will ever have stepped foot inside a classroom. Many may experience separation anxiety from their parents or have concerns about what to expect. But there are things parents can do to ease their fears.
Dr. Steven Tobias, director of The Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown, said the first thing parents need to do is get a grip on their own anxieties because a child will always feed off a parent's anxiety. A parent needs to understand that their child is going to be OK and that this is a positive step in the child's growth and development.
If a parent approaches the situation in a positive way, Tobias said they will be better equipped to help their kids focus on it in a positive way, too.
Always lead with empathy. Tobias said parents need to explore and validate any feelings the child might have. He said some kids may not have any issues on the first day of school. Some may be used to being away from home because they've been to camp, day care or pre-school. But for others, it may be different.
Tobias said it is OK for a parent to ask a child what they are concerned or nervous about. Talk to them about what school is going to like, what is going to happen, prep them with as much information as possible, discuss the teachers and fellow classmates. The more information a parent has and can explain that information, the more reassuring a child will be, he added.
Tobias also stressed the importance of setting routines. Kids respond well to routines because they make life predictable. Start getting them on a bedtime and morning schedule now so by the time school begins, they are ready.
The other thing is to have a child set goals for themselves. Tobias said parents should ask what do they want to happen in school this year: Is there anything they want to experience? What kind of grades do they want to get? Is there anything they want to improve?
Goal-setting gives a child a sense of hope and optimism. Tobias said focusing on them can help take responsibility and have a positive-forward thinking approach to school.
It's also a good idea for parents to focus on their own past experiences and concerns when they were in school. Tobias said use those anxieties and difficulties to be proactive in terms of what can they do for their child so that learning and making friends becomes easier.
Parents who are involved in the school and have constant communication with teachers will not only help the student but also help reduce the parent's own anxieties, Tobias said.
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