A recent poll taken by a prestigious polling company (OK, it was me) revealed a massive difference between parents and their children when it comes to feelings about the beginning of the schoolyear. 92% of parents were overjoyed, relieved, or generally excited for their children to return to school; 83% of children were, shall we say, less than exuberant.
Why such a disparity? Shouldn’t children be excited to go back to school for all of the new experiences and relationships they will encounter? Aren’t kids thrilled to meet new friends, discover where their locker is, what their teacher will be like, whom they might sit next to, where their desk is, what new rules are in play, and what new students are enrolled? If your child bemoans the onset of the schoolyear simply because he or she would simply love to continue the freedom and joy that summer holds, then you’ve got yourself a normal child with normal desires.
But what of the student who absolutely dreads going back to school? The student who suddenly isn’t sleeping, isn’t eating, is highly irritable, or reports significant bad dreams or fears is likely anxious about returning to school. In this case, listen to your child. Begin a dialogue about school and what might possibly provoke the anxiety about returning.
Here are the usual suspects:
1. Fear of incompetence in academics, due to undiscovered learning disability or weakness
2. Social fears: fear of not fitting in, not growing like peers, being sensitive about braces or clothes
3. Fear of bullies
4. Fear of change–like going to a new school, not knowing the social norms or the layout of the school
See if you can get to the bottom of the anxieties; allow your child to talk about them freely and try to help separate reality from fiction, rational fear from irrational fear.