First days of school can be anxiety-provoking for most kids. Lets face it first days back from summer can be tough for us all! Whether it is anticipation about starting at a new school, changing classes for the first time, transitioning to high school, meeting new teachers, taking regents for the first time, finding out who is in your class....school can definitely be information overload which for many kids can cause anxiety. While anxiety or butterflies about starting school is a normal reaction to the start of the school year, for anxious kids however, they may be consumed by these worries. Here are some helpful strategies to ease the back to school transition.
1. Normalize first day of school butterflies. Let them know that adults feel the same way too on the first day back! Emphasize that it is everyone's first day and that having some nervous feelings is okay.
2. Discuss and problem-solve specific worries. For example, if they are worried about being in a new building and making it to their classes see if they can walk the building in the mornings before school to make them feel more comfortable. Emphasize that most teachers understand that in the first week they are adjusting to a new building but that they probably will get the hang of it like they did at their previous school.
3. Review some previous "first days". Have them recall the first day of karate, girl scouts, middle school, etc. Emphasize that since then they have not only gained experience handling firsts, they are older and more capable! Emphasize how they felt similar butterflies during those times but ultimately did beautifully and/or what strategies helped them (or weren't so useful).
4. Lastly, take the pressure off this week and apply the sponge rule: just take in everything this week without making decisions. The goal of the first week should be acclimating to their schedule, finding their classrooms, reconnecting with peers, and getting to know new teachers. Decisions about classes, clubs, schedules, etc. should be a later focus. Emphasize that their goal for the first week is to be a sponge- take in all the information around them, learn what the demands are for each class, adjust to the dynamics of the classroom, and get used to their daily schedule.
To all the parents, teachers, school psychologists/administrators, and most importantly to all the brave kids I work with and those out there, have a great school year!