The Teacher is Talking
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The Teacher is Talking: Special Back-to-School Series

By Leslie Lindsay

Has your summer flown by…or are you counting down the days till your wee ones head back? Perhaps you’re worried about a few things–maybe your child is starting a new school…or, she’s not very good at making first impressions, staying organized, or playing fair.  Now’s the perfect time to begin working with your child on some of those skills as you polish up the back-to-school shoes and shop for glue sticks. 

Follow along as we discuss a different topic related to school readiness each week now through the August.  Topics include:

  • Back to School Stress & Anxiety
  • Easy Transitioning to a New Grade or School
  • Social Skills & 1st  Impressions
  • Organizational & Memory Strategies
  • Self-Esteem & Positive Behavior
  • Playing Fair & Respecting Others

[if you have a child with apraxia, or another special need, please remember to follow along on www.speakingofapraxia on Mondays for apraxia-specific back-to-school tips beginning 8/5/13.  With a combination of these and the apraxia tips, your family will be ready for success!]

Without further adieu…here’s a little refresher on back-to-school stress & anxiety:

Simply put, anxiety is fueled by anything unknown or new.  Think of the times you feel anxious–navigating in a new city, being late for an appointment, not having enouugh time or money to do a job effectively.  The feelings can be similar for your children.  For young kiddos, everything about school is anxiety -producing: who will be in my class?  Is the teacher nice?  What is my teacher’s name?  The building, the routine, where the bathrooms are–it’s all new and unknown, even for older kids.  Here’s what you can do to asauge the anxiety:

  • Talk with your child.  Ask very simply and neutrally, “What do you think school will be like?”  Your child may shrug and say, “I don’t know.”  Try not to fuel more anxiety by ‘offering’ what your child may be anxious about, instead share very matter-of-factly what is involved.  “You will go to ____ school.  We will find out your teacher’s name and get the class list on ____.”   That my appease her for now. 
  • If you know ahead of time who will be in the classroom with your child, invite them over for a playdate before the first day.  When your children see one another tucked behind desks, they will immediatly have a connection.
  • Drive by the school on your way home from errands or a family outing.  Pack a picnic, stop and have lunch there and then play on the playground equipment.  My family has taken a bike ride to our school to do just that. 
  • Be sure to attend the fall preview days/evenings at your school.  Most schools offer these important dates to get to know the school building, meet familiar faces, possibly even meet the teacher and see other classmates.  Go.
  • Do a practice round of the morning routine.  Summer’s great for lounging around and free-sleeping, but there comes a day when everyone must be on a routine again.  Practice it once a week before school starts so everyone can start to get in the habit. 
  • Try reversing roles.  Have your child be the parent and you be the 1st grader (or whatever grade your little one is entering)…ask child-like questions to your little parent.  “What if I need to use the potty when I am at school?”  Your kiddo will likely give you a good answer.  Plus, kids get a kick out of being the parent for a change. 
  • If role-play isn’t your thing, suggest a real-life version of playing school.  Have your  child invite some friends over and let them have at it.  This works well with stuffed animals or dolls, too.  You can help with set-up by suggesting some therapeutic play ideas…remember, your students may need bathroom and drink breaks.  They may like a story.  Pack a lunch and suggest “students” eat in the “cafeteria.” 
  • Practice the Good-bye and welcome home.  Plan ahead how you will get your child to school each day.  If a bus, maybe plan to say your good-byes at home so as not to embarrass your child at the bus stop.  Will you have a specific ritual or saying each time?  “See ya later, alligator!” or “Have fun, be good!”  If you drop your child off via family vehicle, you may want to do a practice round…how much time does it take to get to school?  Daycare or latch-key kids have a different routine, too.  Discuss these plans ahead of time with your little ones.  Make sure they are comfortable with the house keys or garage code and what to do to remain safe if at home alone, or biking/walking alone. 

When anxiety becomes troublesome–you’ll know.  If your child withdrawls completely, gets sick, complains of frequent headaches, tummy aches, sleeps more or less, over-or under-eats, gets overly angry you may be dealing with a more extreme case of anxiety.  Be sure to talk with your pediatrician or another trusted source.  ***Remember, some anxiety is normal and healthy!  Most kids get over their school anxiety in about a month of school starting. 

That’s it!  Class dismissed : )

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