By Erica Patino
Starting a new school year can make any middle-schooler nervous. The social and academic pressures can be especially daunting for kids with learning and attention issues. Here are tips to help you calm your child’s fears.
Your tween may not have the self-awareness to know what’s making her uneasy. Take a walk or grab lunch together and see if she opens up. If she says she’s nervous, try to pinpoint what she’s worried about—that she won’t be able to handle the homework this year? Or that she doesn’t know who she’ll hang out with? Talk about ways to deal with potential problems. (“We’ll talk to the teacher about adjustments if there’s too much homework.”)
Even “popular” and “smart” kids at this age feel uneasy about returning to school. Some form cliques or even start bullying to feel more secure or better about themselves. Before the school year begins, help your child find her own place to belong. It could be volunteering weekly at the local animal shelter. She could sign up for the drama club. Being part of a smaller community will make the social uncertainties of school less overwhelming.
Schedule a meeting two or three weeks before school starts. Talk about challenges your child had last year and what might help her address them this year. Ask what teachers she’ll have and what their teaching styles are like. If your child has an IEP, it’s a good idea to go over it with the case manager and make sure everyone (including your child) understands what her accommodations are. Encourage your child to ask questions, too.
If it’s your child’s first year in middle school, pay a visit and walk through her schedule with her. If she’s returning to middle school, she may just need to size up where her new classes will be. Either way, let your child know that most teachers will be understanding if she shows up a few minutes late to class those first couple of days.
Middle school may be the first time your child is exposed to kids who are smoking cigarettes or marijuana and experimenting with alcohol. Kids will also be talking a lot about who’s cute, who’s not, and who’s dating whom. Talk to your child about the kind of people she wants to be friends with. Let her know that a lot of kids don’t drink or smoke or date, and that she can find friends at school who won’t pressure her to do so.
Getting back into school mode after the holidays can be hard—for kids and for parents. These seven tips can help you jump-start the second half of the school year and make sure everything’s on track.
Whether starting high school or returning to it, teens might be nervous about the new school year. If your child with learning and attention issues is fearful about the academic and social pressures ahead, try these tips.
Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.
Ginny Osewalt is certified in elementary and special education, with experience in inclusion, resource room and self-contained settings.
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