the school year starts, your child will probably return fearing math
class, the lunchroom mystery meat and being labeled a geek for
wearing clothes that went out of fashion last week. A child starting
kindergarten or first grade will also fear isolation, not making
friends and being unable to find the restroom.
sure those first-day-of-school blues are avoided," says Melitta
Cutright, Ph.D., former communications director for the National PTA
and author of "Growing Up Confident: How to Make Your Child's Early
Years Learning Years."
age your child is, you can help alleviate first-day jitters by
helping the student plan for a new school year. "You'll reinforce
the importance of school and make the worries of a new school year
less traumatic," Dr. Cutright says.
remember: The amount of planning help a student wants differs by
education level. An elementary-schooler needs plenty of help, while
a middle-schooler expects a bit more freedom. An older student might
not want Mom and Dad to make any fuss, but parents should find ways
to stay involved because high school presents more choices; from
deciding which classes to take to choosing after-school
how you can prepare your child for a new school year:
weeks before the school year begins again, start getting your child
back in the habit of going to bed, rising and eating meals at set
times. All youngsters need time to adjust to school schedules after
a special trip to the store to buy school supplies; let the
back-to-schooler pick out a backpack or lunch box.
a side trip to a clothing store and buy your child a new outfit for
the first day.
a calendar, start counting down the days till school begins.
a special back-to-school dinner with your child's help. Rise early
and prepare a favorite breakfast on the first day of school.
especially important for a young student to be familiar with new
surroundings. Parents often forget how frightening change can be to
children. To quell any fears of going to a new school:
- Drive by the school and point it out to your child.
- On another day, take the child to the school and walk
around. Play on the playground and look in classrooms and
- If the child will walk to school, walk the route with
him or her at least one morning or afternoon. Walk to the
bus stop if the youngster will ride the bus.
- Go to the school's open house so the youngster can meet
the teacher and other students in a relaxed setting.
- Familiar faces are reassuring on the first day.
real work begins when school starts. It's a given that children will
always hate doing homework no matter what parents say or do. But
these suggestions should help with the battle between study and
- Establish a nonnegotiable, daily homework time. A child
should read or work on a personal project on days no
homework is assigned.
- Establish a quiet place for study. Some children do as
well on the living-room floor as they do at a desk in the
- Ask about assignments and whether the child understands
them. Help if necessary, but don't do the work.
- Always show interest in the child's education. Don't
ask, "How was school?" You're likely to get little more than
"OK." Instead, ask about the day's math lesson or problems
on a dreaded test. Know the books being read, the papers
being written and the projects being assigned.
"Do all that," Dr. Cutright says, "and you'll make the school
experience more enjoyable for you and your child."