One day this week was set aside as orientation for new students at the school where I teach. Our middle school dean of students mentioned to me that he was very nervous. When I asked him if it was because he was going to be meeting all the new parents, he said, “No. It’s because I will be meeting with these new middle school students, and they are scared to death.” I know he was thinking that he wanted to make them feel comfortable and let them know they can trust that we’ll take good care of them.
Students everywhere are both happy and anxious about the new school year. They are happy to be going back to see their friends. But, if last year was a great year, they worry that there is no way they can have another one like it. And if last year was rough, they worry that they will have another bad year! If they are going to a new school, they worry about everything because children fear the unknown. For some students, especially those who struggle in school, the anxiety is overwhelming.
My grandson started 6th grade this year. His first writing assignment was to write a letter to his teacher, answering several questions. One questions was, “What are you most looking forward to in 6th grade?”
His answer? “I am most looking forward to the last day of school.”
For students who struggle in school, this is exactly how they feel. School is not fun.
If your child worries about school, consider the following:
- Make sure he knows where he needs to go when he gets to school. This is especially important if he is changing classes for the first time. Knowing where to go can alleviate a big concern.
- If possible, introduce your child to her new teachers before the school year starts. Some schools have an orientation for new students, so this is a great time to do this. If your school does not, call the school office to find out if there is any way for you and your child to come in a day early to meet the teachers. At a minimum, try to find pictures of the teachers on the school’s website so that she can at least know what they look like.
- Once school starts, make sure you talk to your child every day about school. It is important to know whether things are going all right or not. Ask specific questions like, “Who did you eat lunch with today? What did you talk about?” These questions tend to spark conversation and are not usually answered with one word. Questions like, “How was school?” elicit a one-word response (“Fine”), and really don’t let you know how your child is doing.
- Communicate any concerns you have to your child’s teachers. Remember that children are more successful in school when their parents and teachers work together for the child’s benefit.
For most children, the initial fears of going back to school disappear after a few days. If they don’t, seek help from the school principal or psychologist to figure out what is going on.