We hear so much about helping little kids with first day of school jitters, but what about big kids? It can be just as nerve-wracking to go back to school as it was to go to school the first time. Whether your family has moved and your kids are starting over in a new community, they’re starting at a new school, or they’re just nervous about starting the new year in a new class with new kids, there is plenty going on that can be intimidating. Here are some tips to help you calm your big kid’s back-to-school nerves.
Make sure they have everything they need. Get that back-to-school shopping done. Yeah, they’ll probably whine about helping, but do it anyway, and do it together. Let them pick out whatever supplies the assigned supply list lets them have a say in—and splurge on the stuff that’s more their style rather than the basics when your budget allows. Ditto for the school clothes. Even if they don’t need (or you can’t swing) a whole new back-to-school wardrobe, try to spring for a new first-day outfit or a couple new pieces to help them start the school year off with something special.
Take advantage of Back to School/Meet the Teacher Night. This is especially important if your child is starting at a new school. Whether you’ve moved to a new area or your child is moving from elementary to middle school or up to high school, giving them a chance to explore their new building and meet the staff will help them feel a bit more comfortable on the first day. And I don’t know about you, but I remember having to figure out my locker. Getting a chance to practice that before classes start? Priceless. Plus, while your younger big kids might be a little bit old for formal playdates at this age, Back to School Night might be a chance to make or renew connections and create opportunities for the kids to get together to meet up and hangout before school starts. Or at least connect on social media. Good enough!
Don’t dismiss your child’s fears. Just like when our kids were little and it was tempting to brush off their fears (Oh, for goodness sake! There are no monsters under your bed. Go back to sleep!), it wasn’t healthy for them then, and it isn’t healthy for them now. Whether their fears are realistic, they are very real, and we need to hear our children and acknowledge how they’re feeling. Plus, it’s entirely possible that your child’s concerns are rooted in very real challenges that they have, and we definitely don’t want to dismiss those; we do our children a disservice when we don’t acknowledge that they do in fact struggle at some things. But we can do that while also helping to remind them of their strengths and passions.
Start transitioning into the school routine BEFORE the end of summer. Okay, this one’s not so much about calming nerves, but it will help everything go more smoothly, which can keep emotions on a more even keel. A lot of us—grown-ups included—function better with a routine. If you’re a little more lax about later bedtimes, later wake-up times, and extra screen time during the summer, start transitioning back to school-time rules a couple weeks before school starts. Start scooting bedtime back a bit each day, wake up earlier a bit each day, and sub out some screen time for reading time or outdoor play time. Look at what other schedule changes (meal times for example, or laying out the next day’s outfit before bedtime) your kids might have to adjust to and see how you can start to incorporate those routines into the end of summer, too.
Don’t bring your own baggage. A lot of us may have fond memories of elementary school, if we even think much about it all. For many of us, though, middle school may have been a whole other thing. (And even if it wasn’t, there’s plenty of pop culture out there preparing your kid for a rough road ahead!) Don’t let your experiences impact how you talk about middle school with your child and how you prepare them for their own adventure, especially if your experience…well…wasn’t the greatest.
Kind words. I’m also not above continuing the little kid tradition of sneaking a motivational note in a backpack or a packed lunch, although I will leave off names, so as not embarrass anyone in case the note gets dropped. Or put to better use.
What other tips can you share with our Baby Gizmo readers when it comes to helping calm big kids’ back-to-school nerves? We’d love to hear what’s worked for you, so share your wisdom in the comments!