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Easing back-to-school jitters

tools for school
tools for school
Carissa Rogers via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

It's nearly September which means that most of our kids are heading back to school soon, if they're not already back. While some kids will be excited and looking forward to getting back in the classroom to see their friends and learn new things, others can get a serious case of the jitters.

Recognize the Signs
Older kids might be able to tell you that they're nervous or afraid, but younger kids and shy kids might have trouble coming up with the right words to tell you how they feel. Common signs of anxiety include stomach aches, headaches, irritability, trouble sleeping, or trouble concentrating. If your child is showing any of these signs of anxiety, here's a few ways to help out.

1. Anxiety is Normal
Let your kids know that feeling worried or upset about starting school is normal and that lots of kids feel the same way. Ask them to talk about their feelings and listen to what they tell you. Even though you may not be able to fix all of their problems, sometimes just letting it all out can help.

2. Manage Obstacles
Once the worry ball gets rolling, it can gain momentum and be pretty hard to stop. What was once a little worry about liking a new teacher or getting along with classmates has compounded into fear that the classwork will be too hard, kids will be mean, there will be nowhere good to sit at lunch, and that he or she will miss the bus. Make these obstacles more manageable by identifying each of them with your child and breaking them down into manageable tasks.

3. Visit the School
Taking some time to walk the hallways, to find the lunchroom, and to talk to a few teachers before the school is busy and full of kids can help ease fears about starting a new school. Being able to face their fears with you instead of in front of other students will give your child a chance to work through their troubles without feeling embarrassed.

4. Get Organized
A place for everything and everything in its place. Sometimes it can help just to know that all of their gear is in order and ready to go. Get supplies around ahead of time and set up a place for backpacks and lunch boxes. That way, your child can check to be sure that he or she truly is ready instead of worrying that it won't happen. Also, being organized will reduce the everyday stresses of getting ready to go and that will make everyone feel better.

Know When to Get Help
If you're really having trouble alleviating your child's worry and stress about school, talk to your child's teacher or to the school's counselor or psychologist. They will have all the right tools and experience to help get your kids off to a great start and keep them coming back for more.