Strategies to help ease students’ back-to-school concerns

Strategies to help ease students’ back-to-school concerns

By Michelle Hirsch

wn080214It’s the exciting start of another school year, and
while most students and parents are looking
forward to new activities, teachers and friends,
many are also experiencing anxiety and fears.
Students are wondering:
What is my teacher going to be like? Will I do
well in classes? Will I have friends to play with at
recess or sit with at lunch? Will I be able to find my
classroom and learn my way around campus?
Parents are concerned how their child’s
individual needs will be met, how they will manage
new expectations and course work, or how important
homework will be.
Teachers have been preparing for weeks —
completing advanced classes and professional
development, setting up their classrooms, meeting
with principals and colleagues, assembling learning
materials, and preparing lessons. Teachers are
looking forward to meeting new students and hoping
parents will trust in them as professional educators.
Whether a student is starting kindergarten,
transitioning to middle school or high school, or is off
to college, experiencing anxiety related to change is a
common challenge.
Anytime there is a change of routine and new
faces, it tends to create a sense of anxiety and fear,
says Bre Moro, from the Wellness Council of Arizona
and the new employee health coach in the Kyrene
School District.
Moro says that ensuring families attend
their school’s Meet the Teacher night is especially
important to help ease start of the school year fears
and anxiety.
For students, this is an opportunity to meet their
new teacher and become familiar with their campus
and schedules prior to the first day of school.
Parents have the opportunity to connect
with the teachers, and with other parents, either
individually or through parent organizations.
At Meet the Teacher nights, parents and
students can get a better understanding of teacher
expectations and what is planned for the school year
ahead, easing anxiety and increasing confidence.
Learning the layout of campus, which door
to enter for the cafeteria, the location of the office,
restrooms, gym, and where to line up for the bus,
park your bicycle, or where to go for parent drop off
and pick up areas are all adjustments. Reviewing new
class schedules, bus schedules, school menus, and
activities information, and being prepared with all
the right school supplies help students understand
new procedures and routines.
Strategies for managing new experiences and
change can make the difference in whether students
are motivated and independent or struggle.
Retired longtime middle school counselor
Marsha Ridings offers some great advice for parents
in suggesting parents encourage their child to be
problem-solvers when starting the new school year.
Instead of telling them everything they need to know,
show them where they can get the information,
encourage them ask questions to find out what they
need to know, help them develop the skill to advocate
and think for themselves.
Parents often want to protect their child (from
preschool to college) from making mistakes or feeling
uncomfortable, but Ridings reminds parents that
always being there to ask the questions or address
concerns will take away a child’s confidence and
ability to learn how to find good information and
problem-solve on their own.
When parents see their child is struggling
or having a bad day, they can reassure their child
they are listening and care, but build the child’s
confidence and problem-solving skills by asking
their child questions such as, “What do you think
you could do to make the situation better?” or
“Who could you ask to get more information?”, and
encouraging their child to ask themselves, “How can
I solve this?”
The school counselor is a great resource that can
help discuss feelings of anxiety, bullying, and social
skills.
Moro encourages parents to get their child
excited about school and always make sure they have
a good breakfast to start their day.

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