The Expert Parent on back to school jitters

Here is some help for preparing your child for school, especially a new school.
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A stress-free start

Q: We just moved and my young children will be starting a new school in September. How can I help ease some of their first-day jitters?

A: Whether your child is starting a new school or returning to an old one, the first day in the classroom is fraught with excitement, nervousness and anxiety. Anything you can do to prepare for the beginning of a new school year and help your child make the shift from slow summer days to a more regimented schedule will be helpful.

In the weeks before school starts, begin to ease your child back into a reasonable bedtime if you've been letting her stay up late. Cut back on television and schedule regular mealtimes and bath times.

Discuss the routine for the first day of school, including wake-up time, what clothes your child will wear, how he will get to and from school, and what his after school plans are. Try a "trial run" the week before school starts, from waking up on time to getting dressed, and walking to the bus stop. Even discussing or play-acting procedures for raising hands and going to the bathroom can help ease anxieties.

If you haven't done this already, tour the new school and show your child where her classroom, the cafeteria and bathrooms are. Teachers are often in the building a few days before school starts, so it might be a good idea to call and see if you can come in and meet your child's teacher. Even if you can't get into the building, visiting the playground and taking the walk or drive there will put your child more at ease the first day.

Ask children what they think school will be like, enabling them to express anxieties. Clear up any inaccuracies with the correct information. If your child is worried about not having a friend, arrange a play date with a child in his new class or at least someone who will ride the bus the first day.

Reading books about the first day of school is a great way to get children to voice their apprehensions and let them see that they're not alone in having first-day jitters. And remember, if you are excited about the new school year, your child will be too.

Continued on page 2:  Books that can help


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