Back-to-school: LSU AgCenter Family Life Expert Helps Ease Familys Back-to-School Anxiety

Diane Sasser  |  4/19/2005 10:28:32 PM

News You Can Use For July 2004

As summer wanes and trips to school take the place of trips to the water park, here comes back-to-school anxiety. This stress can affect the entire family, according to LSU AgCenter family life professor Dr. Diane D. Sasser.

Between kids fearing they’ll miss the bus and not make new friends and parents feeling stressed about hectic mornings and carpooling chaos, how can anyone get excited about the first day back at school?

The beginning of the school year brings many worries for children that can lead to sleepless nights and stomach aches. Forgetting one’s lunch or not being able to find the restroom in time can be quite traumatic for children.

"Parents can set the tone for a successful transition from summer to the new classroom by anticipating their children’s concerns," Sasser says, listing ways to help ease your child’s back-to-school anxiety. Try these strategies a week before school begins:

• Set your alarm clock – early to bed, early to rise. About a week before school starts, have your child start going to bed at her school-night bedtime. Set an alarm clock for the correct wake-up time. This will help alleviate her fears of not waking up and missing the bus. Tell her she needs to start doing this a week before school starts, since everyone needs time to adjust to a new schedule.

• Try a school bus run. You may want to go over your child’s school bus route with him if he has never ridden one before (perhaps take a ride beforehand). Find out how long the ride is, and identify a handful of things that he can do on the bus if he is too shy to talk to the other kids.

If your child walks to school, walk the route with him and point out landmarks he can anticipate seeing each day, this may add a sense of security. Make sure the route is a safe one. Find out if another child in your neighborhood may be riding the same bus or walking the same route, and introduce your child to that person. That way your child will know someone on the bus or will have a partner to walk with to school.

• Take a school tour. Call the school to arrange a tour before it opens if your child worries about getting lost. During the tour, help her to find her classroom, the bathroom, cafeteria and other places she fears she may get lost finding.

Sasser next offers strategies for the day before school starts:

• Select outfits the night before. Have your child select outfits for the first week of school. Knowing what he is wearing helps him start off the morning on a calm, predictable note. After the first week of school, have him pick out an outfit for the next day the night before, with no exceptions.

• Pack the night before. Children also fear forgetting their books, school supplies, lunch money and other things they need for school. Make sure you establish a routine that requires your child to pack her book bag every night before she goes to bed. This ensures that she will not have to rush in the morning trying to locate stray items.

• Send a family photo. Send a photo of your family or write your child a reassuring note and put it in his backpack or lunch box for the first week to help him cope with separation anxiety.

Finally, the family life professor suggests what to do on the first day of school:

• Write a letter of introduction. It's not unusual for a parent to hear questions like, "How will my teacher know that I'm nervous about raising my hand in class?" or "Will my teacher know that I like playing soccer at recess?" It can be very helpful to have your child express these back-to-school jitters by writing (or dictating) a letter to his new teacher introducing himself and addressing any questions he has. Include facts such as games he enjoys playing, favorite foods and best friends. Encourage your child to list goals for the year, such as learning how to count to 100 or joining the school chorus. And don't forget a picture so the teacher will know whom to look for.

• Take the school bus. Don’t drive your child to school on the first day if she will take the bus every day. Bad habits can develop very quickly.

• Remember which bus. For a child who is afraid of missing the bus, assure him that this is a common fear. But remind him often that his bus number is 7 and that the teacher will let him know when bus 7 is ready. Show him what the number 7 looks like if he is younger so he is capable of recognizing the bus number by himself. It will give him confidence.

For information on related family and consumer topics in family, housing and nutrition, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/Extension Departments/fcs/ For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/Extension/ Departments/fcs/
Source: Diane D. Sasser (225) 578-6701, or Dsasser@agcenter.lsu.edu 

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