Back to School: Anxiety — Kindergarten and Grade One

Make your child a priority today!

For many students the first day of school doesn’t only mean new teachers and new friends – it can also be a source of anxiety.

Children as young as three may show signs of stress, several months before school even begins. This fear can be pretty intense.

Your young children may fear that something bad will happen to them and there will be no one to take care of them. They may worry about getting lost, not being able to find the bathroom in time and having an accident, not knowing when they will be going home or who will be picking them up.. Make sure to use every orientation opportunity so that your child is familiar with the school, their classroom, and their teacher. Feeling connected to the teacher can help to relieve your child’s anxiety. Tell your child who will pick them up and when. Don’t be late. A child who is waiting to be picked up is anxious. Ask the teacher how she helps children who are crying.

 Take it easy and make getting ready fun!

Fifteen Tips

  1. Label all your child’s belongings, including hats.
  2. Get kids’ sleep schedule ready for school two weeks prior the first day of school. Sleep makes kids smarter and more able to cope with stress. Put your child to bed earlier and wake her up earlier. Make this change in small increments. Children under the age of 12 need 10 to 12 hours of sleep.
  3. Choose clothes that are easy for your child to put on and take off.
  4. Have your child draw a picture to give to the teacher.
  5. Practice a good-bye ritual such as rubbing noses cheerfully, then kissing, and, with a smile, saying, “I love you. Enjoy your day and I’ll see you at 3:30.” When you are leaving your childn never sneak out without saying good-bye.
  6. Do as much preparation as possible the night before. Lay out clothes, pack easy, nutritious  lunches, and have backpacks at the door.
  7. Reassure your child that you are packing an extra pair of pants and socks in a plastic bag in his backpack, in case of an accident.
  8. Get a good night’s sleep.
  9. Prepare and plan a calm morning schedule.  A predictable routine is calming for children. Rushing increases stress.
  10. In the morning of the first day, get yourself ready first.
  11. Be calm. You may add to your child’s stress if you are stressed.
  12. Give your child an appropriate comfort object. For example a picture of the family, or with bright red lipstick kiss the back of your child’s hand with an all-day kiss.
  13. Provide a nutritious breakfast. Even young children, as young as 4 or 5, can pour a bowl of cereal.
  14. Arrive early to help your child engage with other kids.
  15. Plan a fun activity, such as a bike ride with you, for the end of the school day. This can give your child something to look forward to.

What if your child cries when you about to leave?

If your child is teary-eyed it is likely that he is afraid, feels unsafe, and doesn’t know how to self-sooth.

The two extreme reactions are to “rescue” too soon or to leave the child crying.

Don’t say, “Don’t be afraid.” Young children can’t separate themselves from their feelings. Children may feel shame if they are not allowed to express their feelings.

Instead, show empathy.  Hold your child and say, “I know you feel sad. You are okay. You are safe.” Recognize your child’s effort to be brave.

A calm teacher can play an important role here, by doing something to engage your child and by having a welcoming ritual. A child who feels connected to the teacher is usually less anxious.


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