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Addressing Back to School Jitters

September 10, 2012

ImageAs the new school year begins many children and teens will have butterflies in their stomachs and some may demonstrate an increase in irritability or exhibit behavioral concerns.  For some kids there are meltdowns associated with the anxiety of a new school year.  Here are some tips on how we can help families feel better prepared & ease these jitters:

• BE PREPARED
Help your child become familiar with the bus-stop, bus route, school building, and schedule.  If the school offers an orientation, encourage them to attend and be present to answer questions afterward.  The week & night before choose the first day outfit, pack lunch or gather lunch money, help them pack their book-bag with the needed supplies, etc.  These tangible preparations can help kids feel ready and get a good night sleep before the first day!

• ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION ABOUT SCHOOL
Talk with your kids about who their new teachers are, making sure to emphasize the positive.  Also, be there to listen to disappointments to not having friends in their class, and don’t forget to help them feel confident to meet new friends.  Set aside time in the evening after each day of school to learn about their day.  Some academic and social question prompts are:
Who did you meet today?
What subject did you like the most?
What do your friends like to do?
Who do you eat lunch with?
Are there classmates that they don’t get along with?
Making this conversation a part of the daily routine will help your child feel they can come to you with both the good and the bad.  It will help them to find solutions to their problems with and without you.  One of my favorite childhood memories is a very busy mother taking the time to sit with me each afternoon with a cup of tea or snack and talk about the day. 

• SET A ROUTINE (EVEN BEFORE DAY 1)
It is easy with the long days of summer to slip into late dinners and even later bedtimes.  While that is part of the joy of summer, it is important to begin getting into the school routine a few weeks before school starts.  Begin going to bed earlier each night with healthy bedtime hygiene.  Help your child begin waking up to an alarm close to the time they will have to get up for school.  Decide when during the school year activities of daily living will take place and begin to implement that schedule (i.e. shower the evening before, set out clothes, etc).  This will make the night before and the first day of school smoother for both you and your child!  It will also help with getting a good night’s rest, which will all know is important.

• TURN OFF TECHNOLOGY & TUNE IN TO EACH OTHER
Spending quality time (related to academics and to fun) will help your child feel supported and that you are engaged not only with their learning, but in their lives.  This doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time (15 minutes here and there adds up), but it does require complete attention and disconnection from distracting technology (blackberries & ipads count).  While these can be wonderful communication tools, the purpose of this time is for you and your child to connect on the most basic, human level, which is face to face.  Talk with your children about what they are learning (in and out of school), become interested in their passions, tell them what you see and love about the world around you.  LISTEN to your child’s experience and delight in learning together.  This will have a positive impact on their social-emotional development in addition to fostering their academic interest.

*Some information gathered from: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-a-mertler/backtoschool-preparations_b_1734951.html  http://suite101.com/article/calming-back-to-school-nerves-a63862
* A good article with tips directed to youth: http://wvgazette.com/Entertainment/FlipSide/201108170968

By Katie Masey
VAPT Chapter Chair
Rockbridge Area

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