School Transition Angst

Whether your child will be starting preschool, kindergarten or transitioning to a new school this year, change can be scary. You are probably worried as well. How can you help your child cope with a new environment and routine?

Below are some tips that might help your child ease into the new school with less angst:

Make sure your child is familiar with the school and teachers.
Many schools have an open house before school starts. If for some reason you can’t attend the open house, check to see if there is another time you could stop in and walk your child around. During this visit, be excited. If possible, point out the activities that you know your child enjoys.

Talk about the change in advance.
Make sure your child understands that there will be a change in routine when starting at the new school. Talk about it openly and try to address your child’s questions. Prior to the start of school, change your child’s routine. For example, adjust bedtimes and wake-up times that will work during the school year.

Meet others kids who attend prior to first day.
It can help for your child to meet other kids who will be in the same class, or at least the same school. This can help confidence levels and provide a sense of familiarity when your child gets there and knows a friend. Play dates can be a great way to do this, before or even after school starts.

Let your child be involved in buying supplies.
Whether your child will need lots of supplies or just a backpack and lunch box, allow him or her to help pick them out. Your child will have pride about his or her new supplies and can be happy about the choice.

Allow your child the choice of snacks and lunch.
If you will need to send snacks or a lunch, again, allow your child to be involved. Provide your child with healthy, familiar choices, which can provide additional comfort when snack or lunchtime arrives. By making something your child will actually eat and enjoy, you can feel more confident that it will not be sent home uneaten.

Adjusting to the start of school takes time, so be patient. Remind your child that you have been in the same place. When you both navigate these changes together, you’ll not only show your support, but also empower your child to adjust to an exciting new adventure in learning.

Dr. Sandeep Rohatgi is a pediatrician with Mercy Children’s Hospital St. Louis and associate medical director of pediatrics for Mercy Clinic.

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