Help kids cope with new-school jitters this back-to-school season

Change can be a good thing, but it may be hard to convince your child of that if he or she is facing the challenge of entering a new school this year. Whether it’s a teen transitioning from middle to high school, a 5-year-old leaving day care for kindergarten or a child whose family has moved to a new area, going to a new school can be a scary thing for any child.

You know how to send them off with a good breakfast, treat a fever and keep them safe on the road, but you might find yourself in need of advice on how to deal with new-school jitters. Here are some ideas for helping ease a child’s transition to a new school:

* Talk about fears and get specific.

Verbalizing why someone is anxious can be difficult, even for adults. But helping your child put her fears into words will help both of you better understand what’s bothering her – and work together to find ways to cope with her anxiety. Discuss your child’s fears and ask him to be specific. Is he afraid he won’t know how to open his locker? Does she think she won’t fit in? Is he concerned that he won’t know anyone in the new school? Most of the time, children’s fears will be common and understandable. It may help to let your child know you had similar fears and that you made it through your school years just fine.

* Visit the school

Many schools, especially elementary schools, offer open houses prior to school starting. Parents and children can explore the new school together, visit the child’s future classroom and often even meet new teachers ahead of time. Children may feel more comfortable being familiar with the school before they have to manage the stress of the official first day of school.

* Help them make friends

Check with your child’s teacher and ask if it’s OK for him to bring treats to share with the class (some children may have dietary restrictions that the teacher will know of). Sharing some fun can help younger children better connect with new classmates.

* Get connected

Reaching out to other parents is a great way to demonstrate to children how to connect with new people. Seize opportunities to get to know the parents of your child’s classmates. Offer to participate in a car pool – just be sure to practice safe driving habits at all times, and especially when children are in the car.

* Help teens fit in

There’s a reason why teens all want to wear the same clothes, carry the same cell phone and drive their friends around – it helps them feel like they fit in. It’s possible to set ground rules and limits for attire, cell phone use and driving while still allowing teenagers to feel like one of the crowd. Before allowing your teen driver to transport friends, be sure to research teen auto insurance to make sure yours adequately covers everyone in the car. And make sure he or she is familiar with safe driving practices, as well as your family’s “rules of the road” before climbing behind the wheel.