George Lucas Educational Foundation

Easing Back to School Anxiety

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I think so much of getting the school year off to a great start is in the preparation. I think teachers/schools do a phenomenal job of preparing their buildings and classrooms...but the other half is making sure students and families are prepared (beyond the first day's outfit and backpack full of supplies). Whether a student is returning to the same school - or they are starting their day one, there can be anxiety. I know my children always worry about who their teacher will be, will they have friends in their class and will they be able to do the (new grade) work. When they were starting kindergarten and middle school, there were many additional worries entering a new building with new faces.

As a parent, I know that we are not immune to having those first day anxieties either. "Back to school" can create many unknowns and pressures. Many of these things serve dual purpose of not only helping my child - but also me.

So as a school or as a parent group, what can we do and or share with students and their families to make that first day (or month) even a tad easier?

Below are some resources I just shared with our families at our school. In addition to these resources, I know some schools host informal playdates during the summer at the school playgrounds for a chance for students to meet some future classmates. As far as middle school, our kids have several wonderful opportunities to tour the school, ask existing middle school students questions and even a day to test opening their lockers and go through their class schedule before the first day (without hallways filled with upperclassmen). This is probably the biggest difference maker for my oldest when he started middle school. On the first day he was confident that he could find and open his locker, and knew where his classes were and who was in them.

Since we often have a fairly captive audience at the start of the new year, and these things can also greatly impact a student and their success at school, we also chose to share a few links on social-emotional needs and empathy/tolerance of others. 

How to Go Back to School Without Anxiety

Back to School Tips

7 Back to School Hassles and Simple Parenting Solutions

10 Steps to Nurture Tolerance to Reduce Bullying

8 Books to Ease Transition into Kindergarten

Supporting Social-Emotional Development at Home

Easing Anxiety of Transition to Middle School


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Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I try to make those first few weeks as predictable as possible, starting about a week before they go back. My favorite tool is the calendar board. I took an old frame and put white paper in it and update it daily or weekly (depending on what we have going on) so the kids know what they have that day in terms of activities, what the plan is for after-school, and what's for dinner. I also include reminders about their chores- not that it really helps but it makes it easier for me to nag the kids for not doing them. :-) I also try to minimize the number of interruptions to the schedule- no doctor/ dentist/ ortho appointments for the first 6 weeks.

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