A new school year is just a few days away. For some kids, this is an easy transition that’s met with new backpack-buying glee or a simple shrug. Of course, every kid reacts to a new school year differently and if your little one is not quite ready to head back to the classroom, we have a few ways to help ease their nerves, and maybe even yours.
Here are 10 remarkably effective ways to calm those back to school nerves, if they need calming.
1. Take practice drives/walks/bike rides to school
Your child may worry about getting lost or not knowing where to meet you or the bus after school. Having a plan and doing a run-through, so your child knows how their day will start and finish removes this concern, and will also help you to know your child is better able to look after themselves.
2. Practice snacking
If you have young kids, give them any pre-packaged snacks or reusable containers you’ll be sending them to school with, and make sure they know how to open everything on their own. The British Columbia Psychology Association also notes that packing healthy snacks will keep your child energized throughout the day, improve their mood and keep them from suffering a sugar crash.
3. Set time limits
If your child has a short amount of time to eat lunch or snacks at school, start using a timer now so they can practice eating with time constraints. If it’s their first year in school or first time having shortened meal breaks, practicing with a timer will help with feelings of panic or confusion when snack time is announced.
4. Dress for success
Let your child help pick out their outfit for the first day of school so they can choose what they feel most confident wearing. Make sure this is an outfit they can tackle themselves. If your child is just starting school, a onesie or jumper may make visiting the bathroom on their own difficult.
5. Be bathroom-ready
Speaking of which, since teachers aren’t allowed to accompany kids into the bathroom, have your child use the bathroom at home without your help. This will help give them confidence that they can handle using the bathroom at school on their own, or let you know that they still need practice.
6. Watch a movie
Watching a movie that shows kids overcoming a tough situation at school is a great way to remind your child that feeling nervous about school is normal. Movies like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Matilda, Sky High, and Akeelah and the Bee are great examples. For young kids, Franklin, Arthur, and The Berenstain Bears all have back to school films. The American Psychology Association points out that while change can be difficult, it can also be exciting. It’s important for kids to know that their feelings are supported and that nervousness is nothing to be embarrassed about. Seeing characters in movies deal with similar situations and feelings helps to validate your child’s own emotions.
7. Downplay the first day
Between back to school advertising on TV, the radio, and in malls, as well as friends and family members asking your child if they’re excited for school, a lot of emphasis on one day can cause unnecessary stress for little students. Like holidays and birthdays, too much focus on one day can cause an emotional crash. Treating the first day as any other day will decrease some of the pressure and help manage stress.
8. Meet other students
If possible, set up a play date with other kids in your child’s school. Knowing they’ll have someone to play with at recess, or sit with at lunch, can help ease your child’s concerns and likely your own as well.
9. Return to routine
Get back to your school routine before school starts. PBS Parents recommends starting a week before school begins and shifting your child’s schedule to go to bed 10 minutes early and wake up 10 minutes early each day until they’re back on track for their school schedule. This will help combat feeling overtired on the first day.
10. Try to calm your own nerves
Have lunches ready to go (yours and theirs), clothes laid (yours and theirs), and try to keep a positive tone. According to Psychology Today, children use their parents as models for their own behaviour. Remaining calm about your child returning to school will indicate to them that the transition does not need to be a stressful one. Slowing down your breathing, speaking calmly and keeping your facial expressions relaxed may help your child mimic your behaviour and attitude towards starting or returning to school. It will also help reduce your own stress!