Will I know anyone in my new class? What if my teacher doesn't like me? Will I be able to find my new classroom? How much homework will I get? What if I don't understand third grade math?
Back-to-school jitters are common, but for many kids, the fears and worries begin to set in before the school year is over. To prevent your children from having a summer full of anxiety, check out these tips and ideas to ease their fears and help them build excitement for the new year.
Make plans to attend any "Back-to-School Night" or summer orientation events put on by the school. Becoming familiar with their new classrooms and teachers can help ease concerns, and limit first-day fears. Help your kids find their seat and allow them to explore their new classrooms during this time. Encourage your children to introduce themselves to the teacher and a few classmates, even if it is just a quick hello.
Make New Friends -- and Keep the Old
Many schools post class lists when room assignments have been decided. If this is the case where you live, spend some time looking through the list with your children. Pull out old class photos or yearbooks and remind them of children they may know, i.e., "You were in first grade with Carmen. Do you remember her?" If your children have been separated from any close friends, remind them that they may still see their friends at recess, etc.
If your kids will be in classrooms where they won't know many students, try sending them to a day camp during the summer, where they can practice getting to know new friends in a structured setting.
Point out the Unchanging
Many children (like many adults!) fear the unknown. Change can be difficult. Take some time to point out the things that will remain the same. Remind your children that they will likely have the same teachers for their specials like PE, music, and library. While your kids may be switching classrooms, let them know that the cafeteria and playground will remain the same.
If your children are switching schools, remind them that most teachers and schools share the same set of basic rules.
What's in Store?
Explore the school website, read through school newsletters, and ask other parents to find out some of the "perks" of your child's next grade level. Point out opportunities like band or safety patrol, privileges like computer access, field trips the grade level takes, exciting science units or other fields of study, etc. When your children have something to look forward to, they may be less likely to focus on the negatives.
Use Positive Language
When/if your kids express concerns and worries, be an active and sympathetic listener, but remain optimistic and affirming, i.e., "I hear that you're feeling a little nervous about second grade, but I know that you can do it."
Keep your language about schools upbeat and positive. When parents say things like "I hated my fourth grade teacher," or "Third grade was when I stopped understanding math," children tend to personalize and adopt those feelings. If our words can influence their way of thinking, let's strive to stay positive and remind them of their abilities.
Here's to a worry-free summer and a great new year.