Calm Your Child's First Day Doubts

Karen McNew McGuire's picture
By Karen McNew McGuire on August 8, 2018

For me, the first day back to school was always stressful. I didn’t even know that it was called “stress” at that time, but when I think back about the sleepless nights I always had prior to the first day, I am glad those days are behind me.

But actually those anxious feelings are completely normal and even expected during a time of transition.

As you prepare your child to go back to school, the most important thing is to be understanding and help your child deal with his fear of the unknown.

Try a few of these simple strategies from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to calm those first day fears:

  • Remind your child that he is not the only one that nervous on the first day back to school, and that teachers know this so they always make an extra effort to make sure all of the students are comfortable.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school, such as seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
  • Use the buddy system.
  • Pair your child up with a friend in the neighborhood so they can walk to school or ride the bus together.

The AAP also has a check list that includes information ranging from developing good homework and study habits to dealing with bullying.

Carilion Clinic's Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Department works with parents and kids who find life transitions challenging. They recommend that parents watch for:

  • Difficulty sleeping or interrupted sleeping patterns
  • Nightmares
  • Expressing fears about things that didn't bother them before

One effective strategy is to visit the school beforehand, for a tour or open house, so your child has a better idea what to expect.

And when you drop them off, don't linger. Leave quickly and cheerfully so your child doesn't want to connect back with you, and instead redirects her attention to her teacher and new classmates.