Back to school has always been one of my favourite times of the year: it’s about fresh pages and new starts. It’s about wondering what we will learn, who we will meet, and who we will become. Everything is new and exciting from our supplies, to possible friendships, to new experiences. In new situations, children can be excited and anxious at the same time. As parents, we can support them by fuelling the excitement and mitigating the anxiety.
When children display anxiety, we can have them talk or draw about their feelings. What is it they are anxious about? Why? When we know what’s bothering them, we can more easily address how to view and handle the situation. For example, if your children are worried about making friends, remind them of the friends they already have to look forward to seeing again; discuss and practice how to introduce yourself to new friends and how to ask friends if they want to play; talk with your children about what makes them good friends so they go into the situation with more confidence. Having these discussions and practices will help your children to feel less anxious and more excited.
Sometimes, children may be anxious because they are not sure what to expect or because they have not yet attained certain skills. In this case, it’s important to remind them that the key word there is YET. Remind them that they are not expected to know everything and be able to do everything before they go to school. That’s what school is for: to learn all those things you don’t know YET. You may not know them now, but with a little work you will. That little word YET opens the door to the possibility of learning. It is the core of a growth mind-set that will ensure your children have the confidence and the right attitude for learning.
One of the biggest indicators for success in school is the attitude students bring with them. If they are ready to learn and motivated to learn, then, they will learn. As a parent, how can you help foster this attitude? If you maintain that school and learning are important, your children will get that message and believe it, too. You can show them how you value education by showing them your excitement for their learning: have a look through some of the curriculum together so you all know what to expect for the grade level, talk about the various subjects your children will be studying and what they find interesting, make a date to get any necessary supplies, and have a tradition for getting ready for the first day of school.
In addition to the importance of learning, talk about the importance of respecting others. At school, your children will be immersed in relationships. Respecting others and learning how to get along with them will help them thrive in this atmosphere. Talk about the importance of teachers: what they do for you, how they help you, how they are there for you. Talk about how to work with other students, even those who have different learning styles or habits from our own. Part of school is learning to get along with others despite our differences, and respect is a great place to begin!
If you can help your children through anxieties about the first day of school and make it exciting, if you promote a growth mind-set and positive attitude, and if you foster respect for others, your children will be in great shape for the start to their year!