As August approaches, most young students are excited about starting a new school year. They are ready to go. However, some children experience anxiety about going to school. This can affect the entire family. Morning routines can be interrupted and getting him on the bus or dropped off at school can become an ordeal.
Why does this happen? There could be various reasons:
Fear of separating from a parent or caregiver
Concern that the work will be too hard
Fear of missing what’s happening in the family, when they are away at school
Worry about responsibilities outside the classroom—for example, getting lunch in the cafeteria
Fear that other children might tease or bully them
Here are five easy ways to help your young child ease school anxiety:
If the problem is separation from a loved one, try a technique that worked extremely well in my 1st grade classroom. Have the student bring a photo of a family member, sibling, grandparent, or even a special pet. By keeping the photo on the desk or table, the student was able to have family close by for comfort. Ask your child’s teacher if this is allowed.
If possible, bring him to his new class before school starts. Let him see the space and, if the teacher is there, meet his new teacher. Check out the lunchroom and recess areas as well.
If you know of another child or children who is going to the same class, see if you could set up a playdate so your child will know at least one familiar face.
Have him practice letter recognition and letter sounds, number recognition to 50, writing his name, and other basic skills for academic confidence.
Label jackets, lunch boxes, backpacks, etc., so that your child can easily identify her own belongings. This eliminates worry about finding her own things at the end of the school day. (Safety note: Be sure to label items on the inside, as you do not want a stranger to be able to call your child by name.)
Recognizing and acknowledging your child’s fears will help you both look for easy and workable solutions…and keep your morning school routine running smoothly!
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.