Then, last year we moved our family to a new town. A new neighborhood, new surroundings, new everything. My husband and I thought, oh these kids are adaptable…and they were until we enrolled them into school.
While the counselor and their teachers were incredibly kind, both of my children were completely apprehensive of the new environment. Since our move took place around the Christmas season, we were able to keep them home for a few weeks before throwing them into a new school. In those weeks when they were in-between schools, they posed many questions and expressed their fears about the changes.
Here are 5 things that we did to help comfort our children, which may help you if your child is experiencing similar back to school anxiety:
Every night we pray either with the children individually or as a family. Praise God for the good, and bring your struggles and fears to Him. Philippians 4:6 says:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
When our children are scared, use the experience of back to school anxiety to teach the power of prayer. I often wonder how much easier my early life would have been if I could have just grasped the understanding of how prayer and trusting in the Lord calms the soul. Pray with your kids, encourage them to start a prayer journal, and help them learn to lean on God when they are uncertain (and certain!).
2. Encourage Discussion
Fear of the unknown the source of kids’ fears. The “what if’s” are always going to be there, but bring them out into the open. Encourage questions and discussion and be open, honest and loving with your child when talking about their sensitivities.
3. Find Friends
Our children were going to a new school and did not know a single friend. Try to find either classmates or perhaps neighbors that attend your child’s school before school starts, so that at least your child knows someone in their new surroundings. We were blessed to move to a cul-de-sac full of kids that attended our children’s new school. Anytime anxiety surfaced about starting the school, we would remind them of the new friends they had met who also attended the school.
4. Visit the School
We did a few mock-walks to the school before our kids started the new year. We took them to play on the school playground, and before they actually started, they went with me to enroll. This allowed them to meet the office staff and see the new school that they would be attending.
5. Make It Fun
I want my kids to remember their childhood as a fun time. It’s always amazing to me that such little things can create such fun and happiness in a kids life. Case in point: Let them choose their own school supplies. When they started the new school, there was a new school supply list with supplies we had to purchase. While some items the teachers are strict on, other things like lunch boxes and binders, the kids have free rein to choose what they want. Buy them fun pens and stickers. It’s the little things that can make them smile! My favorite back-to-school morale boost is writing notes inside their lunch each day for them to find. These notes were short, colorful and sweet like “Remember God loves you! AND SO DOES YOUR MOM!” or “It’s Friday! Almost the weekend!” I will never forget a few months into their new school, I was cleaning out my son’s backpack and had found a sandwich bag full of these notes. He had kept them all.
Eventually, our kids adjusted fairly well, although it did take about a month to get into the groove of the new school. This past spring, a new charter school was built in our area. On the whim, I submitted an application for both of my kids thinking they wouldn’t get in as it’s a lottery. Low and behold, both got into the new school. This is a huge blessing as my daughter is going into 5th grade and where we live, she would have to move up to intermediate. Now both will be able to attend school together for the next several years…and when our younger two kids are old enough, they will be able to attend as well. That being said, it’s another chance. We are going through the steps again like we did last year to help ease all of those back to school anxiety jitters:
- We are praying nightly about the upcoming changes.
- The kids are encouraged to ask questions and talk about any fears.
- We have met a few classmates at some of the school outings and during a uniform fitting. (This helped tremendously!)
- We drive by the new school often and talk about all of the cool things going on.
- As we buy school supplies and back to school what-nots, we are trying to make sure that the experiences are as fun as possible.
These are the tactics that what works for us, but tell us…