Beat back to school anxiety in five easy steps
By DR. KAREN LATIMER
Watch what you say. Your children will take your vibe and run with it. If you are dreading the start of school, if you have anxiety about your child's ability to succeed, if you are worried about the teacher she will get, keep it to yourself. Your job at the end of the summer is to be a cheerleader for academics. You need to be all "Rah Rah, go school!" I know it is hard, but it will pay off. A parent's anxiety and dread rubs off on kids even when you think they are not looking. If, like me, you aren't excited about back to school, fake it.
Tour the school. If your child is starting a new school, you should carve out some time to take a peak. By now, most elementary classrooms are set up. They will be bright and cheerful and help combat any preconceived notions of a dark, dreary institution of learning. If your child is starting middle school or high school, the intimidation of locker combinations and getting from class to class can cause real anxiety. A quick tour, hopefully with a chance to work on a locker, will make all the difference.
Have them interact with other students. Set up time for fun with other kids who will be in his class. Summer separation from friends can be difficult, and especially in our digital world, kids are losing face-to-face social skills. Walking up to another student, even a friend, can be hard for timid kids. If your child is new to the school, call and see if you can get a class list with parent contact numbers. One familiar face on the first day will be very reassuring for him.
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Take anxiety seriously. Do not blow off your child's feelings because you assume they are just a normal part of tackling on something new. Yes, some nerves are normal, but kids today are at real risk for serious anxiety. Sit down with your child and discuss specifically what she is worried about. Help her put into words the source of her anxiety. You may be surprised by what you hear. By understanding her fears, you can help her overcome them.
Email the teacher. In 2015, you can actually reach out to teachers because they are approachable and nice. When I was growing up, I think my mom was as nervous around a teacher as I was. Parent-teacher communication has come a long way. Explain your child's concerns. The teacher may offer to meet with you before the first day, or pay some extra attention at the start. Ask what topics will be covered in the first couple of weeks. Likely it will be a review, and you can help him prepare. Confidence in academics will definitely help shake off first day jitters.
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