As the first day of preschool or kindergarten approaches, some children feel anticipation and excitement, while others are anxiety-filled. Here are situations that your child might find fearful about going to school.
Separation. If your child enjoys new situations and adjusts quickly to unaccustomed people and places, going to school probably won’t be a scary situation. For the child who doesn’t adapt to novel experiences quickly, being separated from family and home can be difficult.
As parents, we also need to ask ourselves an important question: Who doesn’t want to be separated from whom?
At times our children’s anxieties reflect our own concerns and emotions.
To help ease worries for everyone, plan to visit your child’s school and teacher before school starts. If possible, try to meet with other students and parents before the beginning of school, so your child will see familiar faces on that first day.
On the first day of school, leave quickly while communicating to your child that you know he or she will have a wonderful day. Smile, even though you may feel like crying that your baby is so grown up. Make your self-confidence contagious.
New teacher. Older siblings and friends can create a sense of dread about school. Again, visiting with the teacher before the first day of school can help allay some of these fears.
If your child complains about his or her teacher, ask your child what he or she doesn’t like about the teacher. Perhaps the teacher’s style is firm or loud and could be perceived as mean. If complaints continue, visit with the teacher to gain insight into whether your child is having trouble adjusting to a classroom situation and the behavior expectations that go with adapting to a school environment.
Going to the bathroom. Compared to home, school bathrooms are often big, messy and a long way down the hall. Many children are too timid to ask permission to go to the bathroom or are afraid of going alone. Exhaust fans can sound like jet engines to children and stalls may seem dark and uncomfortable.
A before-school visit is another tool for sizing up the bathroom situation so that your child will be at ease with getting to and from the bathroom. Also, getting a drink of water from a water fountain can be a difficulty for a new student, so helping your child find and practice working the water fountain might be appreciated.
The school bus. The yellow school bus is a symbol of being a big kid, and most children long for the day when they can ride the school bus. Children worry about getting on the wrong bus, who they are going to sit with on the bus and whether the older children are going to be nice.
Make sure your child knows his or her bus number (and phone number) and what to do if on the wrong bus. Devising a buddy system with your child and a friend can help make climbing on the bus that first time a little easier.
The fears most children have about school relate to powerlessness or abandonment. Think about ways your child might feel weak, uncertain or alone, and try to address these situations with your child.
Let us remember to involve our children in the process by simply asking, ”How do you feel about going to school?”