Back to School Anxiety: How to Handle Your Child’s First Day Fears

Helping kids cope with First Day of School FearsIf your child has First Day of School Jitters, don’t dismiss his fears. Many young children suffer from severe separation anxiety. And, it’s important to remember that the first day of school can set the tone for an entire year of academic achievement.

In fact, according to experts at The Conversation, “There is consistent evidence to show early positive school experiences are important for your child’s social and emotional wellbeing and academic achievement. In contrast, children who experience a bumpy start to school are more likely to continue to experience difficulties throughout their school life.”

What causes anxiety in kids? Some common fears that children express include:

  • “I don’t want to be away from you for so long.”
  • “I’m too scared to ride on a bus all by myself.”
  • “What if the teacher is scary or acts really mean?”
  • “Will I have friends?”
  • “I’m afraid I can’t do the work.”
  • “Will I get to have any fun?”
  • “That building is so big. I’m afraid I’ll get lost!”

“Kids who are fearful early on may be the ones who have a harder transition in other aspects of life,” says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University and chief psychologist at Grady Health System.” Some children are just more flexible, more adaptable and these firsts don’t seem to be that big a deal for them. For other kids, any transition is very disruptive. It takes them longer to make the transition. The more you prepare a kid the better, especially if your child is sensitive.”

Kaslow suggests several strategies to help kids cope including:

  • Preparing your child for the new routine
  • Attending the Meet the Teacher Night
  • Talking your child through a typical day
  • Conducting a dry run
  • Allowing your child to be needy for a few days

Helping children understand that they are not alone may help, too. Many popular books tackle the subject of First Day Jitters. Here are a few of our top picks to get your child ready — and excited — for a new school year.

  • First Day Jittersby, by Julie Danneberg
  • The Kissing Handby, by Audrey Penn
  • The Night Before Kindergartenby, by Natasha Wing
  • Click, Clack, Quack to School, by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
  • Ready or Not, Woolbur Goes to School!, by Leslie Helakoski and Lee Harper
  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, by Jeffrey Burton and Sanja Rescek
  • Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma, by Keith Calabrese and Juana Medina

Here’s to the best school year ever!

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