The Back-to-School Butterflies
5 ways to help kids ease anxiety
The back-to-school butterflies inevitably wing their way into my home every August. One moment my kids and I are celebrating our independence from schoolwork, and then suddenly we’re bombarded by back-to-school sales and schedules.
My boys don’t get it. Didn’t we just get out of school, Mom? Now we have to go back?
My thoughts exactly; but, I’ve been around the back-to-school block a few more times than my sons, so I understand that to everything there is a season – including summer break. That makes me (and you) uniquely qualified to help our children transition back to class. We have been there, done that.
When the annual realization that summer is fleeting abruptly dawns on your household, and your school-age kids begin to dread looming changes to daily routines, don’t brush off their concerns – talk to them. Chances are, one or more of these worries are nagging at them:
Can I wake up on time?
I’ve been out of school for a while now, and I still worry about rising and shining on time. So, it’s no wonder my firstborn fears oversleeping his alarm (a.k.a. Mom). One of the best things my husband and I can do for him and his brothers is put them on a sleeping schedule several weeks before the first school bell rings. Our summer days are packed with work commitments, ball games and spontaneous firefly hunts that linger long into the night – making early bedtimes the exception and not the rule.
Do your family a favor, and aim for earlier lights-out well before the kids head back to class. Don’t wing it the night before like you did with your son’s science fair project. I’d much rather put three grumbling boys to bed early now than try to rouse three sleepy bears on the first day of school.
Will I be OK riding the bus?
It’s one thing to sing about the wheels on the bus; it’s a whole other thing to ride them. “The bus is such a scary place for kids because it is a little bit chaotic,” educator Merideth Wilkes said. Wilkes, a kindergarten teacher at Black Hawk Elementary School, suggests being specific when it comes to talking about that first bus ride. Ask your child about his or her expectations.
Discuss how long the ride to and from school will take. Go over the route with them. “Remind them that if they feel uncomfortable, it’s ok to tell someone,” Wilkes said. Sometimes students worry so much about tattling, she added, “that they don’t share important things with staff
at school or on the bus.”
Can I handle the work?
We all breathe a sigh of relief when structure gives way to summer’s simple pleasures. But a rapid return to regular reading, writing and arithmetic can be stressful. Children may wonder if they can keep up. Help students cope with this sudden shift in workload by challenging them academically before school picks back up again.
“Keep learning at the forefront,” said Carrie Robley, who directs Girls Inc. of Rapid City.
Count down the number of days until school starts by keeping a daily log of how often your older student practices math facts or how many pages are read. Seeing their accomplishments on display may give children the confidence they need to embrace a new season of learning.
Will I make friends?
The world’s biggest socialite happens to live under my roof, so making friends is the least of my second-born’s qualms with heading back to class. Kids who aren’t as outgoing may worry about seeing their friends or even if last year’s pals still want to pal around. Seeing a friendly face can go a long way towards making a child’s first day back less worrisome, so ask children if there’s anyone they want to meet up with before school starts. Remind children of the qualities that make them a great friend and encourage them to seek out new friends.
Will I get bullied?
For the child who’s been bullied, heading back to class can feel like he or she is being thrown back into the lion’s den. Talk to your son or daughter about how to respond if and when bullying resumes.
Don’t poo-poo the would-be perpetrators or tell
your child to ignore them. Overcomebullying.org suggests role playing and reviewing plausible responses to a bully’s behavior. Anything from “OK, whatever you say,” and “Thanks!” to “Knock it off” or “Please stop now” are appropriate responses. Stress the importance of maximizing confidence and minimizing emotion.
Back-to-school season can be exciting, but also daunting and stressful for children. The more you can help them release the butterflies, the better
they will handle the first day of school.
By Danie Koskan