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6 Tips for Calming First-Day Jitters in Grade School

By Erica Patino

13Found this helpful
13Found this helpful

As the first day of school approaches, kids with learning and attention issues may feel a bit nervous. Here are some tips that can help keep everyone calm.

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Stage a dress rehearsal.

Set that alarm clock, wake up together, and walk to the place where the bus will come. Ask permission to come to school and check out where this year’s classroom will be. Will this class be using a different bathroom? Take a look and see. Give your child concrete strategies for practical worries. (“If no one’s there to pick you up and you’ve waited 20 minutes, find a teacher and someone will call me.”)

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Set up social time before school starts.

A classroom of new faces can be particularly daunting for kids who have trouble with social skills. Ask the school for a class list and mention to your child some of the familiar kids she’s going to see. Reach out to parents of a few students and arrange a meet-up at the playground. Even if your child doesn’t make a strong connection, seeing familiar faces will make Day 1 that much easier.

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Go over the schedule.

Emphasize the activities she likes. (“And then you’ll go to music—that will be fun.”) If your child has attention issues, you can suggest that she sit in the front row of the classroom. You may want to prearrange this with her teacher. Young children uneasy about separating may not grasp that you’ll “pick them up at 3:00.” Instead, say something like, “I’ll be outside right after music class,” or whatever the last period may be.

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Talk to her about the teacher.

Kids with ADHD and other issues that affect behavior may be particularly concerned their teacher won’t like them or will be mean to them. Reassure your child that her teacher is there to help her learn and understands that sometimes she may need some extra help. Setting up a meeting between child and teacher can give them a chance to make a one-on-one connection and appreciate each other’s needs.

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Address how school will support her.

If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a 504 plan or some other arrangement for classroom accommodations, explain to her how they’ll help her at school. (“You’ll have a little more time to complete the writing assignments and you can do them in a quiet room.”) If she has a counselor or a case manager, remind your child that this is someone she can visit during the day if she needs help or reassurance.

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Give yourselves plenty of time on the first day.

The night before, have your child pick out what she wants to wear for her first day. If possible, encourage her to go to bed a little early. In the morning, build in an extra 15 to 30 minutes so she’ll have time to get dressed, change her mind about her outfit, eat breakfast without feeling stressed, and hold on an extra-long time when she hugs you goodbye. It’s a brave new school year and your calming touch and enthusiasm will make all the difference!

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About the Author

Portrait of Erica Patino

Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Ginny Osewalt

Ginny Osewalt is certified in elementary and special education, with experience in inclusion, resource room and self-contained settings.

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