As the new school year looms on the horizon, the questions start: “Mom, what’s the bus going to be like?” “Do you think my new teacher will be as nice as the one I had last year?” Or, maybe your child will simply act up every time you set foot in the school-supplies section of your local department store.
If the mention of school means repeated questions or acting out, it may not be that your kids are grumpy that the leisure of summertime is coming to a close – they might have a case of the new-school-year butterflies. The trouble is, even if kids are worried about returning to school, many can’t articulate what exactly they are worried about, says Larry Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting and an advisor to the Lego Learning Initiative. “That can be confusing for parents who know there really isn’t anything to worry about,” Cohen adds. “Parents end up having to make their best guess, because they can’t just grill their kids until they tell them.”
Here are some of the common reasons children may be anxious about the new school year:
• Fear of the Unknown – For kids who are starting school for the first time, or even kids who are making a transition from one school to another, just not knowing what to expect can cause stress. “This is especially true for kids who are starting kindergarten,” Cohen says. “It’s so unknown, it’s such a big step, and adults have built it up so much, kids can become anxious about what this big, strange new thing is going to be like.”
• Social Stress – Kids who have a hard time making friends may worry that they’ll be alone in the coming school year. This is especially tough for kids who have been teased or excluded in prior school years.
• Following Up a Good Year – If your child had a great school year last year, he or she could be worried that the coming school year won’t live up to the last one.
• Mourning What’s Lost – Your child could just be upset by the coming loss of unstructured summer time.
• Fear of Failure, Pressure to Excel – “Kids who haven’t done well in school often worry that they’ll be embarrassed or humiliated or that they’ll fail,” Cohen says. “But children who do well in school have that anxiety at least as much as kids who fail, and many times more so because they put so much pressure on themselves.”
Calm those fears..
7 Ways to Ease Your Child's Back-to-School Anxiety