Back to school preparations are in full-swing. Soon, the first bell of the year will ring and the sounds of summer will be replaced by the voices of school-aged children bemoaning the end of their summer and trying to sort out their new school routines: What building am I in? Who's my teacher this year? Do I really have to take calculus?
For most children, going back to school signifies a move from the lazy, hazy days of summer to a regimented school routine and poses unique challenges that must be overcome. "It's a school night" becomes part of the parental lexicon for the next ten months and children typically resist the concept. At issue for children and parents alike: change.
Let's take a peek at Zach:
Zach is 7 yrs old and will be starting the second grade at El Rodeo in a few short weeks. He was a star in the first grade, knowing most of the answers and always assisting Ms. Daisy in classroom activities. He even sang a solo in the spring concert!
Understanding that change can often lead to feelings of anxiety, the faculty at El Rodeo began preparing Zach and his classmates for their transition to Grade 2 in April of their Grade 1 school year. Ms. Davis had a special talk with her class after story time. Zach and his classmates were told about how big they have become and how proud she was of everyone's progress. Ms. Davis spoke about next year and their new classroom across the hallway. She even invited Ms. Eva, the second grade teacher, to the class to introduce her to the children.
Zach and his classmates soon began regular visits to their new classroom. On Fridays, they joined Ms. Eva's class for story time and got used to their new surroundings. Despite all the mindful planning for this transition by his teachers, as the start of the new school year approached, Zach began to have difficulty.
He became increasingly irritable at home, and also began to wake during the night. When he started to lose his acquired toilet training abilities, Zach's parents reached out for support.
With constant communication by teachers and parents, and much love and support, Zach was able to adjust to the change in his school routine and now looks forward to starting school. He spent the last week of school happily sharing his excitement about the beginning of a new school year.
Here are four tips to help alleviate your child's back-to-school anxiety:
1) Know: Your child and how they handle transition
2) Communicate: Let your child know that you are aware of their anxiety and that you are here to help see them through their difficulty
3) Support: Your child in ways to build upon their strengths and talents
4) Reach out: To teachers and other professionals for assistance should your child continue to experience difficulties
Transitions are never easy, especially for a child who may feel that their world is out of their control. Assist your child to regain that control in a strength-based supportive way and share in their excitement as they head back to school.
Dr. Charles Sophy currently serves as Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which is responsible for the health, safety and welfare of nearly 40,000 foster children. He also has a private psychiatry practice in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Sophy has lectured extensively and is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles Neuro-Psychiatric Institute. His lectures and teachings are consistently ranked as among the best by those in attendance.
Dr. Charles Sophy, author of the "Keep 'Em Off My Couch" blog, provides real simple answers for solving life's biggest problems. He specializes in improving the mental health of children. To contact Dr. Sophy, visit his blog at http://drsophy.com