Ten Practical Suggestions for Parents of Kindergarteners or Children Who Are Experiencing Some Anxiety Returning to School
Starting school at summer’s end can be both exciting, and a bit scary, particularly for those starting Kindergarten. Children are leaving behind comfort and familiarity of home, and entering new territory. While they may be developmentally ready and prepared with all necessary school supplies, it is not uncommon for children to experience uncertainty and anxiety. Here are some tips for parents in assisting their children with the transition.
- Likely, some of the anxiety that your child is experiencing is related to being separated from YOU. Home is comfortable. Home is familiar. Home is loving. It is natural for children, including older children, to experience some anxiety upon separation, especially after spending so much time with family over the summer. You can help her with this concern by acknowledging it and not minimizing it. Assure her that you will see her at the end of the school day or when you get home, and remind her of what great things are in store once she gets home. Often, having something to look forward to can help a child get through the day. Some other ideas for helping with the separation include drawing a heart on her palm in marker, so that she can look at the heart and feel your love when she is missing you. You can also read “The Kissing Hand” and kiss each other’s palms. Then when she is missing you during the day, she can place her palm to her cheek and feel your love. Another idea is to have matching parent-child bracelets. The idea is that she knows that you will be wearing your bracelet and thinking about her, and she will be wearing her bracelet and feel close to you, fostering a sense of connection despite the separation, helping her to get through her day. Here is a link to purchase a set: http://peggysmidnightcreations.com/product/when-we-cannot-be-together-bracelet/
- Whether your child is entering Kindergarten for the first time, or returning to elementary school, it is likely that some of your child’s worries are social worries. Questions may be running through your child’s mind, such as “Who am I going to eat lunch with?” “Will I see any of my old friends?” “Will the other kids like me?” “What if I have nothing to say?” Help your child to identify and verbalize these concerns. Your child may also be comforted in knowing that other children have these same concerns. Also, if your child is feeling shy and/or does not feel that she has something to contribute to a conversation, remind her that a simple smile and eye contact go a long way. You could also encourage her to ask a question to demonstrate interest. Many schools have “walk-throughs”, “meet the teacher day”, or ice cream socials before the first day of school. Participating in these can also help alleviate your child’s anxiety.
- Help your child to anticipate changes. School transitions are filled with changes. Your child will likely experiences changes such as different friends, increased responsibilities, and new interests. While this is positive and part of growth, your child may feel some uneasiness, especially if many changes are happening all at once. Your child is more likely to be accepting of these changes if he has an understanding that these changes are natural and healthy, even if they feel uncomfortable at times. Keep the lines of communication open, and check in with him about these issues.
- Resist the temptation to solve your child’s problems. It is natural to want to help your child out when he encounters problems at school, whether they be social or academic. It may seem like it is not a big deal to solve a small problem your child is having, but it is these very problems that are small that are the practice for the bigger problems. Solving small problems for your child deprives him of the opportunity to learn from mistakes, and to gain confidence from success. Instead of stepping in and solving the problem for your child, be a sounding board for him. Talk about possible solutions and outcomes, and then encourage him to take the necessary steps. (Of course step in if a problem becomes too big for him to handle on his own).
- Identify a trusted adult in the school setting. This could be a special teacher, guidance counselor, or administrator. Help your child to identify who this person is, and how to access this person during the school day.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential to proper functioning, including academic, emotional, and social functioning. Limit screen time before bed, and keep electronics out of your child’s bedroom. Studies show that when devices are left in bedrooms, children check them in the middle of the night if they wake up, and this affects both quality and quantity of sleep. Most children need more sleep than they are getting.
- Show confidence. Remember the quote by Peggy O’Mara – “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Your child is more likely to believe in herself when you show that you believe in her, and when you use words that support that. Here is a link to some encouraging words to use with children. http://184.108.40.206/~drpeggyd/encouraging-words-to-use-with-children/
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. Help your child anticipate what is needed for the next day, and complete as much as possible in the evening for a smoother morning. Encourage your child to pick out her outfit the night before, make sure she knows where her shoes are, and have lunch ready. Get up earlier than you think is necessary. Your child will have a much smoother start of the school day when the morning is not rushed and chaotic.
- Positive affirmations. Studies demonstrate that positive affirmations help improve mood, increase confidence, and achieve goals. Keep affirmations written down on pieces of paper in your child’s bedroom. Keep affirmations in the present tense, not something that your child wants to achieve in the future. For example, instead of “I will make friends”, the affirmation should be “I make friends easily.” Positive affirmations are so important because they help children maintain positive thoughts and create a positive belief system, which serves as the foundation for their lives (adults too)! Here is a link to positive affirmations for teens http://7mindsets.com/affirmations-for-teens/ and one for younger children http://www.evelynlim.com/101-affirmations-for-children/
- Love. Show love. Talk love. In any way you can, show love for your child. Surprise your child with a special note. Sneak a love note in your child’s lunch or school folder. Or leave it on your child’s pillow. Yep, even for your teenager. Especially your teenager. Here is a link to some simple things to do today and every day to show love for your child. http://220.127.116.11/~drpeggyd/five-simple-things-to-do-today-and-every-day-to-show-love-for-your-children/