DEAR DR.PAUL: Our five-year-old son is starting school this fall and his older brother is going to begin grade three. They are both excited yet quite anxious. What can we do to help them get started off right?
PEDIATRICIAN DR.PAUL ANSWERS: I was just reading a recent survey asking kids what stresses them the most. More than 80 percent said that school was the major source of stress in their life. As a pediatrician and a parent, this does not surprise me. My own kids, and many of my young patients, seem to always complain about school or be stressed by school-related problems. The two major types of stress are social (bullies, difficulties making friends, missing home, etc.) and academic (difficulties in doing the work or problems with a specific subject).
For more: Helping Students Adjust to New Schools
I’m sure that most parents agree that when we were in school things seemed less complicated and less stressful. However, we have to face this present-day reality and offer our children as much love and support through their school years. This is important at the beginning of the school year, particularly if your children are attending a new school for the first time. Here are some tips that may help parents make going to school easier for their children:
- Remind your child that he is not alone in feeling anxious during the first day of school.
- Before school starts, ensure that all the logistics and paperwork have been done in order to avoid any confusion and extra stress during the first day of school.
- Going to school with a friend from the neighborhood may help.
- When appropriate, perhaps you can drive or walk your child to school and pick her up on the first day.
- Make sure you know lunch and snack times and the rules. For example: does your child have to buy her lunch? Is the school peanut and nut free?
- Make sure that your child has had his annual medical check-up including vision. screening. Make sure that you make the proper arrangements with school authorities if your child needs to take medication at school.
- If your child has any allergies (especially food allergies) make sure that the school is aware of them, and is prepared for any allergic reactions.
When your child is starting the year at a new school, parents should recognize that their child might need extra support. Talk to your child about his thoughts and fears about the new school. It’s also a good idea to visit the school with your child before school begins. Looking into the new classroom and meeting the new teacher in advance (and the principal) will help make the first official day of school easier. Also, if possible, meeting a new classmate or two before school starts is also a good idea.
By recognizing that school is stressful for most children, parents can continually support their children and keep an open dialogue on any school-related issues with their children. Knowing, that we, as parents are on their side, is reassuring to our children. On a final note, what I find works well is that children are reassured when they discover that their parents went through school and survived! It’s always a good idea to share your school experiences with them too!
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Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.