Map it Out
When possible, attend pre-registration days or open house to familiarize your child with the school building and staff. Erin Reagan, guidance counselor at Bailey Station Elementary, suggests, “Walk your child to class once or twice, and then have your child lead you to class to show they are able to navigate the building on their own.” For older students, it is helpful to practice following their schedule and mapping out the quickest route to classes. Many schools offer tours if you schedule them in advance, so take advantage of this service before the school year begins.
If you are unable to physically tour the campus, take a trip online. Most schools have websites with photos and teacher webpages. Seeing a picture of their new teacher can often calm nerves about the first day of school. Knowing what types of clubs and learning activities are offered will get your child excited about returning. Follow your school’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter for last minute updates.
Pick Up a Good Book
Visit your local library for books on back-to-school jitters and read them aloud with your child. Older students will benefit from reading ahead and familiarizing themselves with books covered in their coursework. Parent Daniel Cordero recommends reading along with your child, no matter their age. His daughter will attend Germantown High School as a freshman this fall, and he says, “Actually, I’m reading The Count of Monte Cristo along with her to encourage her. It’s difficult for me because I am a slow reader, but she is doing well.”
Minimizing your child’s fears may only exacerbate them; problem-solve with them instead. Ann Taylor, guidance counselor at Bailey Station Elementary, recommends listening to your child and acknowledging his or her feelings. How did he make friends at summer camp, on sports teams, or at a friend’s party? And what questions could they ask to get to know someone new? “If we acknowledge their feelings while also expressing confidence that they will be fine, they will tend to mirror that,” Taylor notes. “Conversely, if we are totally freaked out that they will be a social outcast, well, they’ll feel that way too.” Role-play different scenarios so your child can practice ahead of time what he might say.
The return to school often means taking on new commitments such as sports and club as well as projects and homework. Complete doctor appointments and vacations to avoid a crammed calendar in the weeks leading up to the new school year. Spend the remaining time getting into the routine of the new school year, and shop for clothes and school supplies before stores are picked over. Giving your child time to relax and unwind before the busyness of the new school year will ensure your child doesn’t burn out before they get going.
Start a New Tradition
Holly Grace, parent to upcoming sixth grader, Liza, at Houston Middle School, plans a low-key celebration for the end of summer. “We meet up with friends for ice cream or have a pool party the week before school starts back,” she says. Grace suggests making it a yearly tradition the children help plan. Other ideas include: decorating your child’s bedroom door with balloons or sprinkling them with “jitter glitter” to chase fears away. Mix up a special batch of jitter juice — Hawaiian Punch, sprinkles, and Sprite — for their lunch or cook a special meal together. Whatever you do, make it a relaxing time you spend together as a family.
Give it Time
If the year doesn’t start off smoothly, there’s always time to regroup. Andre Crafford, the new principal at Crosswind Elementary, recommends remaining positive and teaming up with your child’s teacher. “Find out what seems to be amiss for your child,” she says. “Be supportive — adjusting to a new school or classroom takes time.”