If you or your child has concerns about school, don’t wait until August. Use the lower stress days of July to tackle them. Talking—and taking action—will make life sweeter come fall.
Here are some common problems and coping tips:
The child starting school for the first time. If you’re worried about your child starting school, stop. “A lot of the problem is with parents,” says Laurie Malkin, a social worker at Falconer Elementary on Chicago’s North Side. A child picks up on a parent’s anxiety, she says.
Instead, get your preschooler excited. Buying school supplies should be a big deal. Let her pick a backpack like the big kids, says Reggee McClinton, a support services specialist for psychology with the Chicago Public Schools.
If your child has never taken classes, sign her up for a summer class where she will sit, listen and be without her parents for awhile, says Dr. Sharon Hirsch, a child and adolescent psychiatry specialist at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Or attend library reading times or send her to a summer camp.
The middle-schooler who isn’t excited about school. Maybe there is no obvious problem, just a feeling you have. Or maybe his grades dropped last year. This might be the time to talk—and listen—to your child, says Malkin. Let him discuss his feelings without accusations, she says.
If your child has trouble reading, forcing him to read out loud might intimidate him, Malkin says. Instead, read to him.
The teen starting high school. Teens are still kids, says Hirsch. Your teen is probably anxious about high school. If she will take public transportation to school for the first time, take her on a dry run. Buy books to help build study habits or deal with other high school issues, Hirsch says. And get her talking. Describe your own feelings when you began high school, Hirsch adds.
The child starting a new school. If your child is worried because you moved and he will attend a new school, play up the positive aspects of the change. “Emphasize the good,” says North Side mom Karen Chin. When her son changed schools between fourth and fifth grades, she pointed out how he could walk there and the classes would be smaller.
“The first day he was nervous because no one said anything to him when they were lining up, but at the end of day he came out and he had had a great day,” she says.
But don’t forget the old friends. Chin made sure her son knew he could still get together with his old friends.
If possible take each child—whether in preschool or high school—alone to buy supplies, says Hirsch. It will give you time to talk. Plan a ceremony to mark the first day and take your child’s picture, Hirsch suggests.
The infant or toddler with a speech impediment or handicap. Think you don’t have to worry about school yet? Getting help now will make the transition to school easier, says Malkin. Help is usually available through the state, she says. Merry Mayer