Going to school for the first time or after a long summer break can bring up feelings of anxiety in many children. Separating from parents or regular caregivers is tough for most young children, so here are some tips to make school anxiety a thing of the past.
In all my years of prying children from their parent’s arms (gently), I found that if I asked their parents to follow these suggestions, drop off would be much less traumatic and soon tears and fears would be gone.
Prepare and Answer
Don’t wait until the night before school to answer questions. Talk often about it with positive conversations such as ” What are you excited about?” or ” What do you think your favorite thing will be this year?” If school has already started for you and you are faced with an anxious child, try talking about school when (s)he is calm, but be sensitive to how often you talk about it. Sometimes too much talking has an opposite effect. Answer every question they may have. Some may seem silly to us but in the eyes of a five year old, are completely justified.
As adults we often think of role playing as some lame chore we do at training sessions or in service workshops, but for kids “pretend” play is a natural thing and doesn’t feel like a chore at all. Set up a play school with your child and go through some of the daily activities they do, such as circle time, recess and art. Let them be the teacher; some children just need to feel in control of the situation to get a handle on their worries.
I beleive in the power of books and there are wonderful children’s books that deal with anxiety. My favorites for young children are The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henekes. Both address school anxiety in an entertaining and sensitive way.
Take a Friend
For the very young, taking a stuffed animal or doll can make a huge difference. They don’t have to come into the classroom (some teachers will have policies against that, so ask) but explain that the doll is very scared of school and they need your child to show them school is okay and fun. This tactic is like magic for some kids and allows the child to transfer their school anxiety from themselves to their charge.
Allison McDonald is the founder of No Time For Flash Cards and former preschool teacher. She creates fun kids crafts in the Seattle area with her 4 year old son, and infant daughter who mostly just watches.
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