The School Year Begins for Students and Families
Each year a certain number of children feel anxious or depressed about returning to school. Many children worry about making friends in school. They fear rejection and isolation. This is true not only for children who are beginning school for the first time, but for those who have moved into a new neighborhood and now begin attendance at a new school where they do not know anyone.
For young children school may be the first time they will be away from parents and, for them, separation can be a scary thing. Then, too, older children who have not done well in various subjects there are fears about academic performance. For example, reading and arithmetic can be very challenging for these youngsters.
Following are some suggestions for parents to help ease the way for their children:
1. Basic school supplies are always important. Sharpened pencils, pens and notebooks are always a good idea especially for those entering first grade and every grade after that.
2. It is a good idea for parents of very young children, especially those who are starting school for the first time, to take their kids to visit the school building and classrooms and even meet the new teachers so that they gain some awareness and familiarity with their new environment.
3. To help ease the way for younger children, it is a good idea for parents to befriend the mothers and fathers of some of the other children in class. That way, they can arrange play dates for their kids and that can help adjustment in school.
4. For older youngsters in Middle and High School, its important to encourage participating in as many extra curricular activities as possible. Most of these take place after school hours and enable students to get to know one another.
5. Parents should convey a positive attitude about school and to be upbeat with their kids. This can help reassure children.
6. Allow children to express their worries, fears and concerns. If possible, see if you can help address these worries in ways that are positive. It's also important for parents to ask about the school day and how they like their teachers and students in their classes. Encourage them to talk about any problems, fears or worries they have about school as well as talking about everything they liked.
7. Once school begins, help children with their homework. Parental help can be very reassuring for kids. However, its important that parents be very patient with their children. It is counter productive to get angry with a child if and when they have difficulty understanding something in the homework.
Be there for your children by being supportive, encouraging and enthusiastic while also listening to what they have to say.
Finally, it's important for parents to set a daily routine for the family so that the morning stresses are minimized as much as possible. While children must get dressed in the morning, have breakfast, brush their teeth and get to school on time, many parents have to be at work on time. Without a set routine that includes everyone getting up early enough to get everything done, starting the day can be filled with tension and lots of fussing and arguing. In fact, one way to minimize this is to get as much ready the night before, such as putting clothing out and preparing and packing lunches.
Here is wishing everyone a successful school year.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.