Easing Back-To-School Jitters - DuPage Children's Museum

Easing Back-To-School Jitters

August 15, 2019

Easing Back-To-School Jitters

By Alix Tonsgard, MS, Early Learning Specialist, DuPage Children’s Museum

Starting school, whether it’s daycare, preschool, kindergarten, or even first grade, can cause many children to feel anxious. Older children might worry that they won’t have friends, that they won’t like the teacher, that they will get lost, and so on. In general these anxieties are related to a sense that so many unknown variables create a loss of control. 

Talking to your child, describing the daily routines, including arrival, meals, and bathroom breaks, will help make the day more predictable. Planning a play date with new classmates can help ease the social anxiety and help make things feel familiar and safe. I am also a big supporter of reading, and then discussing books about starting school. Here are a few of my favorites:

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate – A playful rhyming alphabet book that shows not only the preparation the teacher Miss Bindergarten takes to get ready for the first day of school, but also the variety of emotions her students experience and the things they do before coming to school. 

The Gotcha Smile by Rita Phillips Mitchell – Acknowledges the anxieties that some children may feel about making new friends and starting school and provides positive suggestions for overcoming shyness. 

School Days Around the World by Catherine E. Chambers – Seeing school through a real person’s eyes can help children feel more comfortable about going themselves. This book lets students share, through their own perspectives, what a day is like at their school. Along with lessons about culture, diversity, and geography, real photographs and personal anecdotes help prepare children mentally for what to expect and how they may feel.

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney was always a favorite in my preschool classroom.

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes speaks to the worrywarts inside of us all.  Wemberly worries about everything big and everything small, and most of all she worries about her first day of school.  But when Wemberly becomes friends with another worrier, she realizes that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!

Talking to your child about their school day can be a challenge. Some children won’t talk about it and that’s ok. It’s important to know when to stop and let them have space. More often than not it’s in the way that you ask questions that will get the conversation rolling. Here are some tips for starting a dialogue: 

  • Ask open-ended questions – questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no – “What was something that made you happy today?” “What was your favorite activity?”
  • Start with something that you know or observed – Starting with something concrete is more manageable for children than big, abstract concepts – “This year you have to change classrooms for art.  What’s that like?”
  • Share something about your own day and formulate a question from there. 

What are your favorite back-to-school stories? I’d love to hear about them!  You can comment here or on our Facebook page!

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About Alix
Alix Tonsgard is the Early Learning Specialist at DuPage Children’s Museum. She holds an MS in Child Development from the Erikson Institute. Acting as the Museum’s advocate for early childhood development and learning, she ensures that the latest research in Early Childhood Education is represented in all Museum exhibits, professional development initiatives, and public programs.