Parents know back-to-school ratchets up the anxiety in even the most even-keeled kid. But what kids worry about might surprise even seasoned parents. Julia, a freelance editor at Care.com, recalls some of her kids’ back-to-school concerns.
My two girls are 14 and 16, but going back to school still causes jitters. Now that they’re older, it’s easier to understand their worries, but when they were smaller, it was like uncovering a mystery! Here are a few concerns and some of the ways we helped ease the back-to-school transition.
1. Mom will be sad if I’m not here. Don’t laugh – our kids do worry about us! My youngest worried that I’d be lonely. I reassured her that work kept me busy and focused when she was at school.
2. I’m not so sure about the new school thing. Starting at a new school is intimidating. But it’s not always things like making friends that worry them. It’s the stuff like which bathroom to use, changing for gym class or the older kids in the halls that really made my kids nervous. We always visited the playground and the school before the first day to check it out and get any questions answered.
3. The class bully pushed me last year and you didn’t know. Last year’s bully is probably going to be this year’s bully, but you might not have heard about an incident that left lasting impact. Help kids be ready for any bully with lots of roleplaying, “what if” questions and instructions to tell an adult immediately.
4. I heard the teacher hates kids. I heard this one when my girls were chatting with friends in the car.Even little kids hear rumors about teachers – they might listen to siblings or neighbors talk (or even you!). Meeting the teacher before school starts can wipe even a little of this fear away – go to an open house or send the teacher an email request for a quick hello. My girls even liked to snap a photo of the classroom while we were there so they could look at it at home.
5. I don’t know where to sit on the bus. Unspoken bus rules about where to sit, who to look at and what to do actually exist, and my kids realized that before I did. Ask neighbors who ride the bus about where kids typically sit and if the ride is quiet or loud so there aren’t any surprises.
6. I’m nervous I’ll spill my lunch. Like the bus, the lunch room is loud, confusing and hectic. Practice lunch time at home! Use small trays and balance cartons of milk and a small plate. By the time school starts, your kid will be a pro!
7. I think you bought the wrong supplies, Mom. When the supplies list said buy five big glue sticks and I bought five small ones, my daughter worried the teacher would be disappointed – with her. Go over the list and the supplies together so you‘re on the same page. Sounds silly, but it can really put some fears to rest.
8. I don’t think I can handle the homework. Kids know the homework load increases with each grade. Reassurance helps a lot – if they have done fine up until now, they know what homework is all about. If they’ve had trouble finishing homework or projects, find ways to make the process better – even if that means hiring a tutor to help or a babysitter for your other kids so you can help.
Back-to-school time is exciting for kids and parents, but the big changes inspire lots of “what if” questions that can spike up anxiety. Sometimes, just chatting can make kids feel better, so use this list as a starting point to talk about what might be bothering them.