Healthy Families

Making smooth school transitions

Making smooth school transitions

By Carol Boughner

Now that the school year is in full swing, some parents are experiencing new issues and anxieties from their children. Some of the most significant change comes from moving on to another level in school; whether it's from pre-school to kindergarten, elementary to middle school, middle to high school, or high school to college; each step up can present new challenges and concerns. And, even if they are not expressing it, sometimes transition can be intimidating. If your child is not ‘getting it' in their new school situation, and it remains unchecked, it could lead to longer-term difficulties, and even make your child dread going to school.

If your child's not being forthcoming about their school day, ask questions. Don't push, but try to find out what they're feeling and how they are adjusting to their new environment. You know your child best. If you sense that the back to school anxiety may be rooted in something more serious, such as an anxiety disorder or a problem with a bully, talk with your child, your child's teacher, and/or the school counselor. Some of the characteristics of anxiety to look for include:

• Headaches
• Chronic stomachaches (many stomachaches over a long period of time)
• Trouble sleeping
• Grouchiness
• Personality/behavioral change
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Feeling tired
• Hard time making decisions
• Is afraid to be left in a room alone
• Clingy; follows a parent around
• Worries a lot about getting hurt
• Worries a lot about people she loves getting hurt
• Nightmares
• Tantrums/excuses to get out of going to school

Spend time talking to your child about how the day went and positive/negative points of the day. By giving your child more attention, he or she will feel more secure about the connection to you and home. If things get a little rough, try not to overreact. Reassure them that you love them, that you'll think of them during the day, and you will talk to them about their day later. Remain calm and positive.

And remember to try to relax yourself as much as possible. Changing school environments can also be hectic for parents, so taking care of yourself by eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise is a good idea during this transitional. Try to remind yourself that any anxiety or stress you or your child may be feeling is only temporary. If you show your enthusiasm for new school challenges, your kids are sure to pick up on it, and the nervous energy will turn into excitement. Before you know it, your family will be back in the good school habits-groove.