Starting a new school year is like starting a new job. You may know the basics, but the people and the particulars make it completely different. Like adults, new situations create anxiety for children. Find the source of your child’s anxiety and address it.
Teacher – Deserved or undeserved, your child’s new teacher may have a reputation for being mean. Explain to your child that the teacher is looking for students to show what they already know about class room behavior; he or she wants to get right to learning and hates wasting time getting kids to pay attention. If your child’s concerns about the new teacher have not abated by the end of the second week of school, consider sending the teacher a note. Introduce yourself. If you can do so honestly, compliment the teacher by telling her you believe your child will thrive in an environment that is safe and secure and where everyone is expected to succeed. Tell the teacher you look forward to meeting her on open school night to discuss your child’s progress. Having a relationship with her will make it easier to talk to her should your child’s unhappiness in the classroom persist.
Friends – If your child is in a brand new situation, get the class list from the school, introduce yourself to other parents, and invite them for a play date at your house. If their interest is weak or they don’t reciprocate, move on to the next name on the list. Even if your child has friends from previous years, encourage him or her to make new ones. Shared interests are a great basis for friendship. Encourage your child to seek out others in the classroom that like animals, drawing, astronomy, or music. If you have a younger child, arrange a play date to a zoo, museum, or concert. For older children, volunteer to arrange outings for them based on their shared interests.
Academics – Teachers review the prior year’s skills before launching into new material. If your child shows signs of struggling, don’t wait. Falling behind creates enormous anxiety and shame. Get help from a tutor who will review and practice last year’s skills with your child. If you don’t have a personal referral for a tutor, look for a tutoring agency that has been in business for a while. Tutoring agencies have built up large pools of tutors to choose from, so you’ll be able to find one who can meet your child’s specific needs. The added benefit of using a tutoring agency is that their tutors have already been screened for expertise in their subject areas. Some tutoring agencies offer the added convenience of online tutoring.
Organization - The older children get, the more teachers expect them to get and stay organized. If your child struggles in this area, help him sort out the day’s work by subject and deadline. Learn the organization system the teacher uses and periodically review its principles with your child. If your child’s notes are unclear, most teachers have homework assignments posted on their websites.
Whether your child is worried about making friends or a new teacher, parents can play a significant part in helping to ease the transition into the new school year.