Like most children, my boys are typically not super thrilled about the first day of school.
Along with earlier bedtimes and homework, children often lament a new school year because it means adjusting to change. While some children love change, for others it creates fear and worry.
“Will I like my new teacher?” “Who will I sit with at lunch?” “What if the work is too hard for me?” “What if I don’t make any friends?” These are all questions that can keep a six-year-old—or a 16-year-old—up at night in the weeks leading up to the start of school.
The first thing you can do to help your children make it through “new school year anxiety” is to validate their feelings. Many children can’t articulate why they feel apprehensive.
Instead, they simply start showing physical signs of anxiety such as changes in eating and sleeping patterns, moodiness or irritation.
Ask your children questions regarding their feelings about the school year starting. You might even ask what your children are most excited and most nervous about. Then, explain that it is normal to feel jitters before school starts.
Work through the fear
You can also help your children by reducing the number of “unknown” factors leading up to the school year. Find out what you can about a new teacher, a new school and what friends will be attending school with your child.
If your school offers an open house to meet teachers, take advantage of it. If you have children just starting Form 1 in a new school, you might walk through their schedule for the day.
When school starts, help your child with tangible displays of your confidence and affection. For example, you might give your young son a favourite small toy to carry in his backpack as a reminder that “Mum and Dad are there for you.” For older children, leave notes of encouragement hidden in their notebooks or snack boxes.
Create a worry-free zone
Finally, remember that your children feed off your emotions. For example, if you are nervous about your firstborn heading off to kindergarten, your child will pick up on your anxiety.
Your children need your confidence and encouragement as they embark on a new school year, no matter their age.
This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia.