Going back to school is an exciting time for students, parents, and teachers. Anticipation creeps up the last few weeks of summer and intensifies as back to school shopping commences. As the remaining days of summer dwindle, the line between anticipation and anxiety can get rather hazy for some.
Knowing what your child might be worried about as they return to school can help you to alleviate some of their concerns. Being aware can also help you monitor their behaviors in the rare event that back to school jitters don't disappear or develop into chronic concerns.
Below are four concerns students may experience as the first day of school approaches:
1. Transitions: If your child has moved or graduated to a higher grade level that required moving to a new school, they may be worried about this transition. New schools pose all sorts of concerns for students from new routines, to new bus times. Even not knowing where the bathroom is can cause dismay. By the end of the week, your student will be familiar with the school campus and his or her new routine and these worries should be set to rest.
Finding new classrooms and making new friends are not easy things to do, especially not simultaneously. Even if your child has had the same friends for his or her entire academic career, moving to a middle or high school can change things. New kids from other feeder schools will land in the same school as your child and new social hierarchies will develop. This can mean your child will gain or lose friends and may have a different rank on the social ladder--and these are all huge deals to your child. Over the first week, your child should start to thaw out as he or she becomes more familiar with the new school's social setting, but watch for indicators that your child isn't integrating well over the first semester.
2. Getting along with peers: Peers and even teachers can be real sources of dread for students. The media has brought a lot of attention to bullying issues inside classrooms, but that doesn't mean that the abuses stopped occurring. It does mean that schools are taking the issue seriously though. It is completely normal for children to not get along and even for students to dislike certain teachers, however; if the issue becomes all consuming and you notice changes in your child's demeanor, behaviors, routines, or mood, you may need to step in and start asking hard questions.
3. Work load: If your student felt like last year's curriculum was too challenging or the FCAT was more grueling than he or she anticipated, he or she could be apprehensive about the coming year's workload. Remind your student that some subjects and grades are notoriously more difficult than others because they introduce difficult concepts or have testing requirements that other grades do not. It may also help him or her to remind them that they only have to learn things once, so anything they found particularly challenging last year they will already know and only be reviewing this year, and then they will move on to something different.
4. Self Expression: This concern is more common with older students who are self actualizing. The line between appropriate self expression and looking ridiculous is never thinner than in middle and high school. Your student may want to take some fashion risks and may not know if his or her choices are completely brilliant or major blunders. A good way to avoid this is to let your child bring a friend back to school shopping. If that doesn't pan out, know that this concern should melt away after those daring outfits have been revealed to the world and judged for what they are.
Parents can help ease these jitters by providing words of encouragement and sharing in the excitement of starting a brand new school year. Reminding your children of their accomplishments, and all the things they like about school, will help them to face the things they don't care for.
For many students, back to school jitters will be long gone by lunchtime and a complete afterthought by the time the bus brings them back home on the first day of school.