SchoolFamily Voices

Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.

Tips to Help Ease School Anxiety

On the opening day of school I noticed Sarah, a new first grader, looking very upset.

I saw that her shoelaces were untied."Would you like me to tie those for you?", I asked. "Yes", she said with tears in her eyes,  “I used to know how, but I don’t know today!”

When Sarah said, “I used to know how, but I don’t know today.”  I recognized that she was really telling me “I’m so overwhelmed that I forgot skills I already knew.” 

School anxiety is a very real issue for some children (and some parents, too!) Here are four effective tips that have helped my students, and my own children, ease their school “jitters.”

  • Let your child bring a small photograph of you, your family, or even the family pet to school. If their teacher allows, your child can keep it on their desk or table. Sometimes seeing a familiar face is enough to keep him or her calm.
  • Let your child take a special, small stuffed animal to school.Make sure your child knows that the toy should stay in their backpack. Often, just knowing that a favorite cuddly thing is close by can be comforting.
  • Put a special note or sticker in your child’s lunchbox, and let him or her know to “look” at lunch for a special “something” you left in the lunchbox.
  • Read stories together about going to school for the first time.Two great ones are “Grover Goes to School,” by Dan Elliot, and “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn.

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#1 Lisa Cartolano 2009-09-30 13:44
These are helpful tips. I also like "The Kissing Hand" as a great story for first-time students. I recently wrote an article entitled, "Easing Back to School Jitters"; the link is here:


I hope it helps!
Lisa Cartolano

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