It’s that time of year again and parents all over the
country are getting their children to return to school. Whether it is a little
one going to Kindergarten for the first time, or a young adult going away to
college, there are bound to be some worries and concerns for both kids and
parents. KidsPeace Institute Senior Training and Development Specialist Jodi Campbell offers some suggestions on how to ease the transitions.
Going back to school represents change: a new year, a
new start. Kids may be flooded with questions and worries about coming school year: Will I like my school and my teacher? What if I miss mom and dad?
Will the kids like me? Will I be able to talk to that cute girl this year? How
will I handle my classes? Can I even do the work? What will my roommate be
like? Is that mean kid going to be in my class again this year? What will
happen on the bus ride?
Worry and anxiety can cause some of the following:
sleep (more sleep or less sleep than usual
eating (eating more than usual, or inability to eat)
complaints (headaches, stomachaches)
Usually, these are temporary and will resolve in a few weeks
once the transition is established. If they do not, consult a doctor.
It may be difficult to know what your child is thinking, so
the best thing to do is ASK. Start the conversation in a casual way, perhaps
while he/she is doing something enjoyable. Meet your child where she is. Get
down on the floor in the playroom. Send a message on Facebook. Talk in the car.
Some possible conversation starters:
Elementary School: “So, school is starting really soon. You
must be excited AND nervous at the same time! I know I would be. What do you
Middle School: “So, what are you thinking about school? Are
you freaking out at all? Worried about anything? Talk to me…”
High School: “Hey – just want to check in with you about
high school starting. I know you are totally ready for this. But just remember
I’m here if you’re stressing out at all. Let me know if there is anything I can
College: “So, leaving home. This is huge. What’s going
through your mind about all this?”
Dealing with worry and anxiety can be overwhelming, but
remember…lots of times it’s just a matter of thinking things through out loud.
When we keep it inside, it can get out of control. When we talk it out and put
it all on the table, it’s much more manageable. So, do what you can to bring up
conversations and provide opportunities to vent. But, this is important…DO NOT
force your child to talk. Make yourself easy to talk to. If you do this, then,
even if they do not talk now, they will later…when they really need to.
in any orientation activities the school offers.
how things will go once school starts including schedules, walking routes,
bus stops, morning and evening home routines, etc. Kids are more
successful when they are pre-taught.
your resources at the school. Find out in advance who the important
figures are at your child’s school. Know their names and how to reach
them. (Principal, nurse, guidance counselor, advisor, dean, etc.)
- For K
– high school students, make an alliance with your child’s teacher. In
today’s world, email is a great tool for this. Make email contact with your
child’s teacher within the first two weeks of school. Introduce yourself
and encourage the teacher to drop you a line whenever necessary. Your
relationship with this teacher should be appropriate for the age level –
the younger the child, the closer that relationship should be.
college students, do the OPPOSITE. Do not contact professors on behalf of
your child. Let your young adult navigate this new world on his/her own.
This is crucial. Only in extreme situations, such as your
child’s physical safety being at risk, should you be getting involved with
college officials. Do not negotiate grades or ask for extensions on behalf
of you child – ever.
You and your child have made it through the transition, perhaps with no initial worries, but now some problems are cropping up…
Some of the more common problems children experience in the
school environment include:
Elementary and Middle School:
with the teacher (not liking the teacher, getting in trouble with the teacher,
afraid of the teacher)
with peers (bullying, exclusion, getting “in with the wrong crowd”)
with romantic relationships (“first” boyfriend/girlfriend, lack of focus,
break-ups, abusive or unhealthy relationships)
problems (attention problems, reading difficulties, learning disabilities)
problems (forgetting things, losing things, not completing assignments, getting
problems (not following rules, getting into trouble)
health issues (emerging)
expectations (pressure is too much to be successful, perform, get into a good
college, get a scholarshh
and organizational problems continue, especially if unresolved from earlier
Issues (changing friendships and social groupings, pressure to fit in
(romantic relationships, pressure to have sex, questions about sexual
behaviors (substance use, driving, self-injury, eating disorders, steroid use,
hazing, violence, etc.)
problems (classes are harder – lack of established study skills cause problems)
with roommate and living arrangements
with making new friends, dealing with romantic involvement
wellness (poor nutrition, lack of sleep, exposed to illnesses in living
arrangements, high-stress, safe sex, substance use, etc.)
of focus (academics versus social expectations
(sports teams, fraternities/sororities, etc.)
and schedule (self-management, responsibility, attending/skipping classes)
problems (working, paying for basic needs, paying bills, running up credit
So first, how does a parent KNOW there are problems at
your children. If you know your children, then you know when they are “off” or
“not themselves.” This is crucial. If this happens, you know it’s time to
reach out and start asking questions. He/she may not fess up the first
time you ask, but make yourself available. Encourage; don’t push. It will
come out eventually.
for a change – atypical behavior for your child in the following arenas:
academic performance, punctuality, eating, sleeping, physical appearance
and involvement in their interests and hobbies. A sudden or drastic change
in any of these areas is a red flag for parents.
Ok, so you think there is a problem. What do you do?
your resources and use them. Use the resources available at your child’s
school to be an extra set of eyes and an additional perspective.
to your child. Do not be afraid to ask difficult questions. Be there and
notice your child is in pain. Noticing makes your child feel important –
worthy. Be comfortable with whatever he/she says. Be open and
compassionate, regardless of the situation.
your child. Be a COACH, not the Calvary. Do not solve your child’s
problems for her. Give suggestions and check back in to see how it’s
going. That being said, you should know what your “line in the sand” is.
Though we do everything we can to let our children make their own choices,
we also have to know when “enough is enough.”
you do intervene, do it with dignity. Avoid getting into a conversation
with another child, or another child’s parent. When issues are this big,
go through the school whenever possible. Keep your cool. If you do, school
officials will be more willing to help you and your child.
So, what if you’ve tried all these things, and your child is
still suffering? What if in your “gut” you just KNOW that something is really
If you suspect that your child is getting depressed or
having a serious mental health issue (suicidal, hurting others, eating
disorder, self-injury, etc.) you should GET HELP.
Do not be afraid to contact a professional so that your
child can talk to someone who has helped other children before in the same
situation. Don’t go it alone.
How to get help:
the school and see what resources are available there.
- Visit www.kidspeace.org for tips from
your child to visit www.TeenCentral.Net,
an anonymous free website designed to give kids feedback from Master's level
counselors when they are not sure where to turn.