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I think we’re going to have it pretty easy this school year when it comes to the transition to first grade. The girl is going to the same school she’s gone to for two years, should know almost all of her classmates, her kindergarten teacher is going to be one of the first grade teachers and she also spent some time in the other first grade classroom last year so either way she will know her teacher before school begins.
All that said, it’s still perfectly normal for kids to suffer school anxiety this time of year, from worries about making friends to the new routine to harder school work and increasing homework.
It’s our job as parents not to dismiss what for them are real worries and concerns, and to equip them to deal with those feelings in a positive way.
Here are some quick tips to deal with your child’s school anxiety (and maybe some of yours, too, if you’re feeling it as your child goes through transitions).
Talk about what will be the same. Will they be in the same building, with a lot of the same friends as the year before? Are there classes they love that they will still get to take? Do they love spending time on the same old playground or going to the library each week? If those things are still happening, remind your child that not everything is going to be new this school year. (Unless you’ve moved, in which case check out my tips for transitioning to a new school.)
Let them share their worries. Not all kids are willing or able to talk about what worries them when it comes to a new school year, but try to be open to whatever they have to say. Remember, their feelings are valid, even if they seem silly with the distance of adulthood. You were probably a scared kid once, too. Ask them what they think might help, give them a journal or teach them some breathing exercises.
Give them a token. One year for Valentine’s Day I made the girl a little felt envelope with three crocheted hearts inside. Last year as she started kindergarten it was the special think she could keep in her cubby to remind her that we loved her even though we weren’t there. What your kid will like may vary, but think of something special they can keep in their backpack or pocket to remind them of their family when things get tough.
Ask the teacher. Most teachers have dealt with school anxiety before and they may have good solutions for the particular age of your child. The girl’s teacher was good about giving us an extra minute some mornings to say goodbye, and often would send a reassuring text that all was well later in the day.
Learn more about parenting an anxious child. There’s an amazing resource available right now called Calm the Chaos: The Secrets to Calming an Anxious Child. Written by Danya Abraham of Lemon Lime Adventures, who is also a national board certified educator turned stay-at-home mom with an anxious child of her own, the self-paced course is full of great tips, worksheets and support that will help you understand your anxious child; assess, observe and modify their behavior to get to the root of their anxiety; and implement phrases and strategies you can use in the moment to help your child and guide them to self-regulation.
This four-week course offers amazing resources that will help you gain understanding into what your child is going through, as well as the patience and resources to help them through it. It’s so hard in the moment sometimes to be calm yourself when you don’t understand why you child is anxious in a given situation, related to school or otherwise.