Going back-to-school can be a stressful time for children of any age. Preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade back-to-school challenges can be especially stressful for early learners. It can stir up various emotions for parents and children. The emotions range from the anxiety of meeting new students and teacher to the excitement of using new supplies.
Here are few tips to foster a stress-free preschool, kindergarten, first grade back to school experience
Separation anxiety is a common developmental stage for most preschoolers and their parents.
- Check your own feelings. If you are anxious, your child is likely to feel anxious. Hence the phrase, “Kids pick up on everything.” Talk it out with your friend, not your preschooler. Over-explaining back-to-school could send your child the wrong message. Use stress management techniques to manage your own anxiety. Diaphragmatic breathing is easy and effective.
- Practice saying “goodbye” or “see you later” long before the first day of school. Use a room in your house or apartment to practice being out of your preschooler’s sight. Start with very short periods of time (peek-a-boo style) and add additional time as your child becomes comfortable with separation. Peek-a-boo is an age-old early childhood game that generates laughs and reassurance that Mom or Dad will come back to them.
This is a great time to have your child experience how you say goodbye. Be consistent so that your child begins to associate it with not seeing you and then knowing that you come back. Read more tips on back to school stress.
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- Children are nervous that they won’t know where to eat lunch or how to make friends. Thankfully most schools offer a “meet your teacher day.” This is time well spent and will put many of the unknowns to rest. Some neighborhoods have gatherings so that the children can meet other children before the first day of school. If not, you can set up a play date with a couple of the kids you know will be in your child’s class. This will eliminate the fear of not knowing anyone and create a degree of comfort when your child sees familiar faces.
Stressing about the classroom environment is a common stressor for first graders.
- For children, one of the biggest concern is their teacher. They are worried that they will get the mean teacher or the strict teacher. It is important that you do not encourage these concerns. Never let your child hear you speaking negatively about their teacher. Give your child a chance to bond with their teacher without any preconceived notions. Even the reputed mean teacher may become your child’s favorite.
- Children at the first grade age can identify the things that they are concerned about. Ask them and talk it through to a positive outcome. Create a safe space for communication where you listen, acknowledge, and discuss possible solutions. This fosters a strong parent-child bond you will want to have now and as your child develops.
Breathing, positive statements, visualizations, and progressive muscle relaxation are all effective methods to reduce stress, anxiety, and fear.
How do you think children can be prepared for school? Share your thoughts with us about your preschool, kindergarten, first grade, back to school challenges in the comments below.
Lori Lite is a mom, founder of Stress Free Kids, and author. After helping her own children, Lori understood that her mission was to help other parents and children struggling with stress, anger, and self-esteem. Her award-winning titles are considered a resource for parents, psychologists, therapists, child life specialists, and teachers. Lori’s constant upbeat presence on social media has been awarded numerous accolades to include Top 100 Parenting Experts to follow on (@StressFreeKids) Twitter. Her sought after practical tips have been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including CBS News, CNN Living, WebMD, and Family Circle magazine.