It’s hard to believe it, but it is already the end of the summer, and time to start thinking about the transition back to school.
This change can already be hard for a lot of kiddos, but if you have a child with anxiety or ADHD, this change can be even more difficult. My 2nd grader has both of these, and we have learned from experience that it is best to try to give him as many heads up on upcoming changes as possible.
Let me please add that you know your child best. Not all of these tips will work for every child. If you know that it could be something that actually triggers your child’s fears or worries, please do not do it.
Here are my tips for helping your anxious child transition back to school:
1. Talk about it!
Once we hit August, we begin to chat with our child about the changes of the upcoming year. Because he has already gone to his school for the last three years, attending a new building isn’t an issue. However, if this is a new school for your child, you may want to talk through that. Most schools have websites you can pull up and show them basic pictures of the school. Explore it and talk about some of the information the webpage offers.
It is during this time of the summer that we usually get notified of his new teacher. We will then talk about the fact that he will have a new classroom and teacher. His past few teachers have sent along letters welcoming the students and include facts about themselves and pictures, which is incredibly helpful. It at least allows him to put a face to the name.
2. Visit the School before the first day
If your school offers an event that allows you to go in, drop off supplies, and meet the teacher beforehand, I strongly recommend attending if your life allows. Because of COVID last year, this event was canceled. However, the teacher was happy to send a slideshow full of pictures of the classroom when I requested it. It was so incredibly helpful for my anxious kiddo to know what he was walking into. She also did a Zoom where she introduced herself to the students and it was great that he was able to have “met” her before his first day.
If you are unable to make your back-to-school night, reach out to the teacher and see if they can accommodate that. Most are very willing to do this as it helps your student start with the best foot forward.
3. Let your child help choose and put together school supplies
Up until the first day of school, we start to get supplies ready and let our son have his say in the items that we can. You can’t really let your kid have four red notebooks if the teacher has requested four of different colors, but usually, you are okay to individualize things like backpacks and lunch boxes. It allows him to feel like he has some control over the things he is taking to school, which he appreciates.
4. Provide opportunities to express big feelings
We also will talk a lot about his worries and fears and just work on coping skills that will allow him to work through those big feelings. We never tell him not to feel those things, but instead, help him learn how to work through and with them. The constant reassurance that he can do this and that his feelings do not make him less than really seem to help him out.
As I said before, you know your child the best, but hopefully, some of our routines for this transition will help your family. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your anxious child and ask the teacher for things that will help this transition for the new year!
Have a great school year!
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