Do you remember your first day of school? Happiness, fear, excitement, trepidation and joy are just a few of the ways that children respond to the start of a new school year. Like adults, some young people also experience anxiety and stress. A new school, new teacher, new grade, and/or new schoolmates can be overwhelming.
Anytime we experience something new and we have to acquire new knowledge, it can lead to stress. The good news is that parents can be proactive in helping their students adjust to all of the new things that they may encounter this year. The following is a list of tips that will lead to a smooth transition:
- Initiate the Conversation—Some young people are less inclined to share and they are not always forthcoming about what they are experiencing in school. When asked the proverbial “How was school today?” many young people will simply answer with “Good” or “Fine.” Use this as a starting point to introduce the concept of highlights and lowlights. Ask for 3 highlights (things that went well) for the day and 3 lowlights (things that need to be improved). This can lead to both immediate and long-term assessments about how your children are really doing in school. Create a space where the conversation is natural and unobtrusive. Some parents find that car rides, dinner tables or homework sessions are ideal.
- Draw from the Familiar—Integrate your children’s favorite books, television shows or role models into conversations that will help you to illustrate how others have dealt with, and overcome, similar obstacles or concerns. You may even want to share a story from your childhood. The key is to help them to know that they are not alone. What initially seems insurmountable can, and eventually will, improve.
- Be Transparent—As adults, we may understand that change is an inevitable part of life, but this may not be easy for younger children to comprehend and accept. Talk to your children about any concerns that they may have. Reassure them that new things and people are a part of life. Most importantly, be honest. If they ask questions that you cannot answer, find someone in the school or district who can answer accurately and honestly.
The bottom line is that parents can help prepare students for the new and the unknown. Remember, you play a crucial role in empowering your children to adapt to stressful situations.
Tyra Seldon, Ph.D. is an education advocate, consultant and freelance writer. She is passionate about eradicating the educational disparities that hinder young people from their optimal success.