KANSAS CITY, Kan. - For parents who are concerned about their child's transition from elementary school to middle school, or if their child is starting classes in a new school, there are several ways to ease any anxiety.
Randy Callstrom, LSCSW, is the Executive Director of PACES , Wyandotte County’s mental health agency for children and adolescents facing behavioral and/or emotional challenges.
“Especially for older kids going into middle school and high school, a lot of anxiety isn’t around academics, but it’s about fitting in,” said Callstrom. “It’s a social experiment. ”
Easing students’ anxiety
Callstrom says students’ back to school jitters are normal but there are things parents can do to ease their kids’ anxiety. Some of his recommendations involve parents getting to know their child’s teachers.
“Meeting their teacher, especially in the early grades of elementary school,” said Callstrom.
He also recommends that parents visit their child’s new school and walk around with their child prior to the first day of class.
“Letting them get familiar with their surroundings, this is what the new building is going to look like and here is where your new classroom is,” Callstrom explained.
“And if they are going into middle school, help them find their locker if possible."
One big concern for parents right now is bullying. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration encourages parents and caregivers to spend at least 15 minutes a day listening and talking with their children to prevent violence.
Callstrom also says it's important for parents to recognize any changes in a child's behavior and ask a lot of questions.
“Parents really need to be sensitive to [cyber bullying] because children often will not tell their parents if they are being bullied,” said Callstrom.
“Facebook and Twitter, those kinds of things are just other areas to be targeted or to be left out and so it does create anxiety with kids."
He added, “It really comes back to, 'How do we fit in? How do we sort out who we are? How do we compare to other kids our age?' and that type of thing."
Show excitement ahead of day 1
If parents act excited and enthusiastic about the school year, children will notice and it can build their interest and self-confidence.
“It’s usually the anticipation of the unknown,” said Callstrom. “So trying to help them identify what they’re anxious about…helping them clarify their questions and answering what they can’t really instill confidence in them. ”
5 year old ready for class?
As for how parents can determine if their five year old is ready for kindergarten, Callstrom says it’s best to seek advice from the school principal, school counselor or even the pediatrician.
“Go to the school and talk to the principal and just let them know what your concerns are if you’re worried they may not be ready,” said Callstrom.
“For some children it’s really important they are held back because maybe they’re not socially or emotionally ready.”
For parents whose children will be starting kindergarten, Callstrom recommends playing school at home. They can learn to raise their hands and wait for permission to speak, finish assignments, and learn what to expect in a classroom setting.
“One thing would be waiting in line because a lot of kids aren’t used to waiting in line,” Callstrom added.
“We all want our children to succeed,” Callstrom said. “It’s up to parents to take the lead. ”
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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