As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, we approach the back to school season. Returning to school can be exciting for some children, but for others, it means sleepless nights filled with worries and anxious feelings. Natasha Niunka, English Generalist at Westpark Elementary School, starts off each morning with calming music as she greets her students at the door with a smile, allowing them to feel safe and special. As an educator, she has noticed a rise in student anxiety, and she takes responsibility in working towards reducing it as much as possible.
In the classroom, there are various teaching approaches implemented to lower stress levels; however, reducing student stress begins in the home. Here are Niunka’s shared tips on how parents can ease their child’s back to school jitters.
- Implement healthy habits: Exercising regularly, eating well and sleeping enough hours can lower a child's stress levels.
- Have a positive mindset: Focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Going back to school means “reuniting with all your friends, making new friends, learning new subjects, exploring a new classroom,” playing at recess, after-school activities and so much more.
- Re-establish a routine: A week-or-so before the first day, make sure the child is getting a good night’s sleep by going to bed early and waking up at the time they would during a typical school morning.
- Get comfortable with the surroundings: If it’s a younger or newer student, “take short trips to the school yard before the first day so that they become familiar with the surroundings.” If the student is extra-nervous, you can request to meet the teacher and tour the classroom before the first day.
- Be open and vulnerable through communication: “Discuss your child’s worries and concerns - talking it through will help them process what is to come. Together, you can come up with different strategies for dealing with the potential “tough stuff” - and don’t let them know how nervous you are!”
- Read Back to School stories: Before school begins or during the first few weeks, these stories are perfect for getting back into “school mode.” Not only are they good for young children, but even sixth graders may enjoy them! Niunka recommends:
- First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
- How to Get Your Teacher Ready by Jean Reagan
- If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School Don’t by Elise Parsley
- Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School by Herman Parish
- Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
With these tips, and as time goes on, Back to School jitters will begin to fade! If anxious feelings are experienced throughout the year, I encourage you to seek help: speak with the teacher, or the school psychologist to find out its root cause and then decide how you can best assist the child.
And with that, happy Back to School!
My name is Melissa Migueis and I am a student at Dawson College in the profile Cinema-Communications. I love to lead a healthy lifestyle by eating clean, being active and keeping a healthy mindset! Oh, and you can always find me somewhere in nature!