With students getting ready to return to school after two months away, it can be a challenging transition for a child of any age. Not only do they need to readjust their sleeping patterns and summer habits, but they also need to get ready to adjust to new classes, meet new teachers, and possibly make new friends. For younger children, the idea of being separated from family members for a much longer period of time can also feel frightening and cause separation anxiety.
If your child is feeling anxious about returning to school, here are a few ways you can help ease their mind and get them more excited about the new year.
Set and Practice Routines Before School Starts.
Anxiety comes from not knowing what will happen in future situations, and you can reduce those nerves exponentially by simply creating a routine where kids know what will happen next. Setting earlier bedtimes, waking up at a certain time, getting washed and dressed, and eating breakfast are all things to include in their morning routine. Doing the same thing each morning is important to help kids mentally prepare for the day and feel confident knowing what they need to do each day.
You can also ease any separation anxiety by creating your own goodbye ritual, such as giving them a kiss, exchanging a secret handshake, or doing a high-five before they go to school on their own. Coming up with the ritual before school begins can help your child also feel more in control of the situation and make the transition to school easier.
Visit the School.
If your child is starting at a new school, take some time to visit the campus beforehand. You can schedule a tour with one of the office staff or take a walk around and get to know where the classrooms are if it is an open building. Let younger kids play on the playground, too, so they feel more familiar with it. Have your child walk down the hallways and even visit classrooms without you, so they feel more comfortable at school on their own.
You can also show them where you plan to drop them off and pick them up so they feel less anxious about before and after school routines. If school staff allow it, practice dropping them off and picking them up to give your child an idea of what the morning and afternoon will look like.
Schedule a Zoom or Video Call with a School Staff Member.
Seeing a familiar face at school can greatly help reduce your child’s nerves before school starts. You can schedule a quick Zoom call to introduce your child to their new teacher if they have time. If you don’t know who their teacher is yet, you can reach out to the principal or counselor instead and see if he or she can greet your child on a video call. Establishing a connection with a school staff member–someone your child would see–gives them something to look forward to. The school staff member can also help make the transition easier after your child walks onto school grounds.
Arrange Playdates with Peers.
A familiar face always makes transitions easier. Set up playdates with your child’s peers before school starts, so they feel more comfortable going to school with someone they know. If your family is new to the school, it may be more difficult to find other parents to set up playdates. However, you can see if there are any parent groups on social media, like Facebook, for your school or neighborhood community to connect with other families and possibly set up playdates with future classmates.
Strategize with Them.
If your child still feels anxious about going back to school, don’t dismiss their fears. Instead, validate how their feeling and boost their confidence by coming up with ways to handle their different concerns. Brainstorming logical solutions to possible problems or worries is a great way to teach your child—through modeling—how to solve problems on their own and come up with creative and rational solutions.
Prepare the Night Before.
You can easily reduce stressful mornings by going over the school schedule with your child, helping them remember which room they will be in, and who will drop them off in the morning and pick them up after school. Set out clothes, pack their backpack, and have them help you prepare their lunch beforehand so there will be as few surprises as possible on that first day of school.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.