Yesterday was the first day of school for students in my district. This year, I have been assigned to an elementary and a high school. Yesterday, while I watched and greeted students as they came to school for the new school year, I was reminded of my own children and their first day of school. My son, the oldest, was excited to start school with his Star Wars backpack and school supplies. I can recall the big smile on his face as I took his picture. The following year, my daughter started kindergarten and my son was in the1st grade. My daughter was so excited to start school. She felt so “grown up” and could hardly wait. She insisted on wearing a dress. Not just any dress, however. It had to flare out when she twirled around. 🙂 Her hair in a ballerina bun and pretty black shoes and bobby socks with lace on them. I’ll never forget that day when I met her outside her classroom after school. She ran up to me, gave me a big hug, and exclaimed, “Mommy, I’m so proud!” She was so proud that she was a kindergartner and she had accomplished her first day. She loved it! My son, on the other hand, was utterly disgusted with his 1st grade classroom decorations. He reported to me, “Mom, the class is covered in clowns. Do they think we are kindergartners?!” He did love his teacher, though, and it was a great year for both of them.
They are both grown now but I will never forget those days! As I reflect on these cherished memories, I hope that you and your children, too, will make great memories this year.
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In my previous post, Part 2, I discussed my experience as a child in school and shared some strategies that worked and didn’t work so well. Here are a few strategies that can be invaluable for you as parents to help your child with anxiety, whether about school or anything else.
- Recognize physical symptoms. Our body will tell us when we are anxious. Our pulse increases, we might feel light-headed, or our muscles may get tense. Talk to your child about what is going on when they are anxious. First, ask them what they notice about their bodies when they become anxious. Often, children are able to identify the signs. If your child is very young or otherwise unable to identify physical symptoms, you can help them by observing them when you know they are getting anxious to see if you recognize any obvious symptoms. Once your child is able to identify the symptoms, help them to use calming strategies, such as the following ones, when they notice their bodies telling them they are anxious.
In Part 1, I described my experience with school phobia and anxiety and mentioned that I won the fight over fear. Ultimately, I continued my education and became a school psychologist in which part of my job involves working with students who have similar issues. In this post, I would like to highlight some of the strategies that worked for me and some that didn’t. I don’t think I ever would have been able to identify these strategies if I hadn’t had the experience I did in graduate school. It was an aha moment and profoundly therapeutic. It happened informally one day while I was visiting with one of my psychology professors who was a counselor. Continue reading
August: the month that brings anxiety for some. Many students of all ages are anxious about going back to school in the next few weeks. This is natural, especially as students are facing transitions from one level to the next. But for others, the thought of going back to school can stir up more than butterflies in the stomach. In the next few posts, I’d like to touch on the topic of school phobia. First, I’d like to share my own experience with school phobia and how I moved from being fearful of everything to helping others overcome fear. In subsequent posts, I’ll share some strategies that others have found beneficial.
In the spirit of back-to-school time, I thought I would share this video I stumbled across on Facebook. It’s awesome! We need a student like this at every school to begin the day!
Show this to your kids; perhaps, share it with your kid’s teachers as they begin the school year. I hope you like it as much as I did!
Thanks for reading!
The thought of your child starting high school can be frightening, especially if your child has anxiety, ADHD, Autism, or other special needs. As a school psychologist, I have had the opportunity to work with many students to help them experience a smooth transition. Here are a few tips that many parents and educators have found beneficial. Continue reading
Starting back to school can be stressful for many students and parents–especially when it involves transitioning from elementary to middle school. The anxiety can be multiplied when a student has special needs. Here are 5 tips to help ease the stress and prepare for a successful transition and start of the school year:
- As parents, we often have more anxiety about our child’s transition to a new level than our child does. This is normal! However, be careful not to allow your child to assimilate your concerns. Many children tend to gauge their interpretation of events based on their parents’ reactions. Simply put, if Johnny sees mom scared about him starting middle school, then, to him, middle school must be a scary place. Talk to your child about his or her concerns about middle school and try to address them. If you don’t have the answers, contact your child’s principal or special education teacher/case manager.
- Obtain your child’s new schedule as soon as it is available (usually at registration time). Request from the principal or special education teacher/case manager that your child walk through his or her schedule a couple of times before school starts. This will help familiarize your child with the layout of the school and the order of his or her classes, which can help ease some fears.
- If your child will be using a locker and has fine motor issues, request that he or she use a padlock instead of a combination lock. Another option is a store-bought lock that uses letters for a combination straight in a line, which might be easier for some students and won’t require him or her to carry a key around.
- Communicate! Send your child’s team of teachers a brief email before school starts to introduce yourself and your child with a few highlights of his or her strengths and needs. Teachers really appreciate this and it allows opportunity for questions about concerns or questions they might have. Keep in mind, though, that teachers have a few days of in-service and meetings before school starts so don’t expect a rapid reply. Continue communicating with them throughout the year as needed, especially if you have concerns. Celebrations and words of appreciation are always wecomed, as well!
- Relax! This can be the hardest thing to do as a parent when your child is transitioning from elementary to middle school. However, in my experience as I have seen students transition from each level to the next, that they all make it! Sure, there can be some bumps along the way–just like life–but your child’s team is there because they care about kids and want them to be successful. Be prepared…. the first 2 weeks can be the bumpiest as students are trying to adjust. But, guess what? The voyage may be different for each student but they are all in the same boat. I was nervous, too, as my own kids transitioned to middle school and I had different concerns for each of them. But, what I discovered was that they found their groove just like every other new middle schooler and they survived. Yours will, too. I promise!
Here’s wishing you and your child a successful start to a new school year! If you have specific questions that I haven’t addressed here, please feel free to ask!
Thanks for reading!