The beginning of another school year brings excitement and nervousness. And for those starting at a new school, it can also bring stress. Beth Moore, a seasoned school counselor, offers practical tips on how we can help our children adjust to their new surroundings with a few intentional steps.
1. Be prepared. “No one likes to stand out on the first day,” says Moore. “Make sure kids have the right uniform (if applicable), and are properly enrolled.” Don’t wait until the last minute to find out what supplies are needed or what forms need to be completed. Check school websites and community information boards to gather pre-enrollment information.
2. Help kids learn the area and be familiar with their surroundings. If kids can easily participate in conversation about major points around town, they will begin to feel more connected. “The more comfortable a child is in general, the easier school will be,” says Moore.
3. Tour the school beforehand. Many schools offer students the chance to walk the campus before classes begin. For elementary-aged kids, it also helps to play on the playground. If offered, take your child to meet-the-teacher night and orientation. “Do anything that will help raise your child’s comfort level ahead of time,” says Moore.
4. Reassure your child with positive statements. Remind your children they aren’t the only ones feeling anxious. “Every student is nervous on the first day,” says Moore. “Other students are nervous about new classes, nervous about the lunch shift, or concerned about whether they’ll be with their friends.” It helps your children to know they aren’t the only ones walking into school with a bundle of nerves.
5. Scour social media accounts for student-organized events. “Many high schools have Twitter and Facebook accounts that are grade-specific and promote activities for students before school starts,” says Moore. Help your child find social
media pages connected to their school and follow the buzz.
6. Network with others around town. Visit churches and attend community events, for example. “Do anything that will help your child see a familiar face at school,” suggests Moore. Athletic functions and back-to-school events at community centres, etc., offer places for kids to connect and meet new friends.
7. Stay positive. “Be supportive and positive, always,” advises Moore. “If they have a bad day, help them get up and go again.” Don’t allow your child to sulk and complain about their surroundings. Encourage positive attitudes and healthy self-talk.
As kids begin a new school, they have fears that range from finding the right bus to who they’ll sit with at lunch. A child’s personality, social and emotional development, and prior school experiences contribute to how they react. We can help our kids face their fears and adjust to their new surroundings with courage and self-confidence and in the process, develop valuable skills that carry into adulthood.
Gayla Grace, MA, writes and speaks on family and parenting issues, and has undergone the stress of new schools with her five kids.
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