As summer comes to an end, you may notice your kids are asking more questions about going back to school and may even have some butterflies about all the upcoming changes. Kids may feel worried about having a new teacher, finding friends to sit with at lunch, or even if they will find friends at all. It can feel so confusing for parents to help their kids navigate all of the worries that going back to school creates. You may even feel like you’ve tried everything—tough love, reassurance, bribing—without any success.
Getting back into the school routine is challenging enough without your child experiencing those back to school butterflies, too.
While managing worry is not one size fits all, there are techniques that you can use to help ease the transition back to school.
- Find ways to create stability. Most families become pretty comfortable in their summer routine, so that back to school shift can feel like a hard adjustment. Creating a stable, predictable routine will really help to reduce worries. Try to emulate what a regular school day will look like for the whole family for at least one week before they go back to school. Wake up, eat, and go to sleep at regular times. You can also include practicing the drive to school or the walk to the bus stop. The more worried your kids seem to be, the longer they will need to adjust to their new schedule.
- Go beyond reassurance. Children often look to their parents for reassurance that nothing bad will happen at school. So instead of just saying “Everything will be fine!” try to create a plan with your child about what they could do if something goes wrong at school. Address their specific worries and come up with specific ways they could solve it. So if your child doesn’t know where to sit at lunch, draw a map of the lunchroom and discuss some possibilities.
- Pay attention to how you react. Kids look to their parents when they are worried for ideas on how they should react. If you appear overwhelmed or nervous, they are likely to follow your lead. Find ways to show your kids that you are feeling calm and confident about the new school year. Say a strong and cheerful goodbye. If the goodbyes turn into a tantrum, try to problem solve what they need instead of allowing them to avoid saying goodbye and going to school. You can even enlist the help of their teacher!
- Try to find the positives. Encourage your kids to try to find the positives in the midst of their worries. Find three things that they are excited to do the first week of school. Have them plan their favorite lunches for the first week or lay out the outfits they are most excited to wear. Praise and reward them for any brave behavior they show, no matter how small!
Written By: Laura Lebovitz, LMFT