The key to fear is typically the unknown. Going off to school can be serious unknown territory for a new student. They’re afraid they’ll get lost and won’t find their way to class. They’re afraid that they’re teacher won’t like them. What happens if they can’t make any friends? Who will make sure they’re safe and they don’t get hurt. These are the fears that typically run through the minds of most parents and children when it’s time to go back to school. However, a little time and preparation can help alleviate or at least take the edge off of the “Back to School” jitters.
First of all talk with your child and get a sense of what their fears and concerns specifically are. Take them seriously and don’t dismiss them as silly. After helping your child to talk about their fears, arrange a tour of the school. If the school is willing to allow it try and schedule it at a time other than the typical “Back to School” night, when the school is teaming with new students and the teachers and faculty are too distracted to give you and your child much attention. I recommend calling the school and setting the tour for a few days before school starts. This way there are teachers around but your child won’t be overwhelmed by a bunch of other students.
Take your student to the office first and introduce him or her to the personnel that work there. That way he’ll know their faces and hopefully their names, in case he needs to go to the school office for anything. This may be a good time to introduce him or her to the school principal if he or she is available. There is a lot of unnecessary fear surrounding the principal and if your child has met that person already it will help them to maintain a realistic perception of them. Next figure out which door your child will be typically entering the school and find out where your child’s classroom will be. Then walk with your child from the entrance to their class, from that point help your child explore the different parts of the school they will be utilizing, such as the gym, library, music room and cafeteria. Bring them back to their class room after visiting each place that way your child begins to become very familiar with the layout of the school in relation to their class.
If your child’s teacher is available take the time to introduce yourself and your child to him or her. With your child present ask the teacher what your child can expect from a typical day of school. Find out what kinds of supplies your child might want to have that might not have been on the school supply list. Ask the teacher if they have a list of classroom expectations, so that you and your child can go over them together.
Then end it with some fun. Take your child out to the playground and let them explore their new recess digs. Sometimes there’ll be other kids out there playing, if so stand back and let your child play on his or her own. Give them the chance to make new friends. Chances are if the kids are playing at that playground then they’ll probably be going to school there too. If there isn’t anybody out there then take some time and play with your kid. Help them to try out all the different equipment and talk with them about all of the different games they might be able to play at recess.
If you can, try to connect with some parents of children that will be in your child’s class. See if they’re willing to set up a play date so your children can get to know each other before school starts. Having a friend already at school can really help a child to feel excited about school, instead of frightened. Role play with your child and act out different scenarios then discuss how your child might want to react to them.
Knowledge of what to expect can go a long way to alleviating your child’s fears, but so can your attitudes. If you handle their fears with concern and respect, but are careful not to echo those fears then your child will be able to get over them quicker. Dismissing their fears or laughing at them can make your child withdraw and feel ashamed for being afraid. Echoing their fears as being some of your own fears can just solidify their beliefs that there is something to fear at school. Finding a balance is key and making sure that you do everything you can to ensure your child feels comfortable talking to you about their fears and problems is priority number one.