5 Back-to-School Worries
The stress of school isn't easy for kids to deal with. Here's how parents and caregivers can help.
Going back to school can be stressful for children -- especially those who may be attending for the first time. Parents, nannies and babysitters can help make the transition from the lazy days of summer to school chaos easier with love and support.
Here are five worries that lots of kids have and tips on how to address them and make sure your kids are well-prepared and well-adjusted. Share this article with your caregiver, so she can be prepared.
Can I Wake Up On Time?
A few weeks before the school year actually begins, ease your family back into the school schedule. Transition to an earlier bedtime so that waking up early isn't an issue.
Parenting expert Jennifer Grant, author of MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family, notes that, "It's standard advice from educators and pediatricians, but take it seriously: Make sure kids get on a schedule for school a few weeks before it begins. After late summer nights of catching fireflies or staying up late to watch movies, getting up woken up early for school can make for ugly mornings for you and your kids."
What Will the Bus Ride Be Like?
For a young child who may have never been in a vehicle aside from mom's minivan, riding the bus to school could be a big leap. Parenting expert Robert Nickells, of DaddyScrubs, suggests you practice riding the bus to get your child acquainted with the idea of sharing a large vehicle with many other people.
"The school bus might be a stressor for younger kids," Nickells says. "Take a few practice rides on a city bus with your child so they get a sense of what it's like [safety rules, standing in line, not standing up when the bus is in motion, etc.] Ask for the route map in advance so you can drive your child through the neighborhood and point out specific landmarks/signs they should look for so they know which stop is theirs."
Will I Make Friends?
For a child who is just starting school, moving from one grade to the next or starting a new school, it can be very stressful to think about who they'll be friends with, who they'll sit with on the bus and who they'll know at lunch.
If possible, set up some playdates or fun afternoons with other children in the neighborhood who will be attending the same school and grade as your child. Knowing a few other kids before they walk in the door -- even if they do not end up becoming best friends -- can go a long way toward easing your child's friendship worries.
Will I Get Bullied?
Bullying in schools has become a hot topic for parents and for good reason: No child ever deserves to be bullied. Teach your child to recognize bullying from others (including cyber bullying!) and how to interact with others in their peer group.
Tim Elmore, education expert and founder of Growing Leaders, notes that, "The return to school after a summer off can be a scary time for young kids. Early puberty, and the changes and emotions that accompany that, and the emergence of social silos in the elementary school years can become a breeding ground for bullies."
He suggests that in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, you "speak candidly with your children about bullying. Let them know that it happens, and that they are not alone, but that it's important to begin to develop a strong sense of self to become impermeable against these kinds of unfair attacks."
Learn about 8 Ways to Banish Bullying ť
Can I Do All the Work?
One of the big changes from summer play to the school day is the increase in assignments and structured activities. In most traditional school environments, your child will be expected to sit still for periods of time, be quiet, listen to others and follow the rules. If they haven't been exposed to this regularly at home, they may have a hard time adjusting.
Parenting expert Julie Nelson suggests you structure rules, expectations and consequences. "If you don't have a regular, consistent schedule of daily activities at home, your child will have more difficulty adjusting to them at school."
Give your child responsibilities and things to do at home, such as daily chores like clearing plates from the table, picking up toys or dressing themselves.
"Give support and encouragement as they complete these activities," suggests Nelson. "Do as much as you can together to model it correctly. Use these as 'teaching moments' for life skills. Only allow privileges [like going on an outing, playing with friends] after they are done."
Back-to-school season can be exciting, but also daunting and stressful. The more you can eliminate mystery from your child's everyday routine, the better they'll handle the first day of school and beyond.
Gillian Kruse is a freelance writer in Houston, Texas. Her work can be found here.