Easing back-to-school jitters

August 31, 2015 | by Jonathan Gibson, M.D.

Starting a new school year is an exciting, potentially nerve-wracking time for kids. The way parents manage the first few weeks of classes can make a big difference.

It’s normal for a child to feel nervous about going back to school. New teachers, different routines, maybe even a new school, would make any child edgy. Parents should be sympathetic and reassuring.

Try some of these strategies to help ease their jitters:

  • Set a routine. Establish a routine for homework and bedtime, and start practicing it before school starts.
  • Be selective when talking about school. It's important to set expectations about the new school year, but let your child initiate questions and discussion. Show enthusiasm about the teaching staff and principal.
  • Clear your schedule. If possible, avoid business trips and evening commitments during the first week of school so you can be home to help your child. Use this time to talk about school and ask questions.
  • Tour the school. If your child is switching schools or starting middle or high school, walk around the new building to find classrooms, practice using a locker and find the bus stop.
  • Allow extra time. Pack lunches and pick out clothes before bed to avoid being rushed in the morning. Send your child off to school with a good breakfast. Don’t turn on the television, tablet or video games before school.
  • Get to know the staff. From the principal to school psychologist, school nurse and teachers, there are many resources for you and your child.

Over time, if your child is still struggling with feelings of stress or anxiety, seek help; talk with your child’s physician. There may be a deeper issue.

Explore behavioral health services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Jonathan Gibson, MD, is a family practice physician with Edward Medical Group.

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