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Parents can help kids' back-to-school stress

August 18, 2003

BALTIMORE - For many children, the first day of school doesn't just mean new teachers and new friends; it can also be a source of anxiety with homework assignments and tests just around the corner.

Parents can help ease anxiety and make a smooth transition from summer to school by starting a routine with their child early in the year.

"Parents are often surprised by their child's first-day jitters because children prepare for the first day of school every year," said Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., vice president of education for Sylvan Learning Center. "While all children are anxious about the start of the new school year, parents should pay close attention to children in transition years - kindergarten, first grade, the start of middle school and the first year of high school. The first days of transition years are particularly difficult and come with new expectations and challenges."

Parents can help minimize the stress associated with the new school year by increasing organization and preparation Bavaria said.

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Back to-school suggestions include:

  • Get back in the routine. Ease transition from lazy summer days to the structure of the school year by re-establishing bedtime, mealtime, reading and homework routines.

  • Set education goals. Help your child set goals at the beginning of the year.

  • Develop a relationship with your child's teacher. Take the time to meet your child's teacher at the beginning of the school year.

  • Homework routine and place. Designate a specific time and place for homework time and help your child discover a regular, quiet place where he can study.

  • Stay on schedule. Your child should keep a schedule of all classes, assignments and key dates, such as project deadlines and test dates. The more thorough the schedule, the more efficient your child will be.

  • Emphasize organization. For some students, having color-coded binders for each subject helps them stay on track throughout the school year.

  • Encourage learning at home. Promoting learning outside of the classroom helps children perform better in school.


Transition year back-to-school tips include:

  • Visit the school. If your child is changing schools with the new year, make a special trip together to visit the school before the first day of classes to help ease feelings of anxiety and help get your child into the academic routine.

  • Discuss changes in routine. Talk with your child about how the routine for his new school may differ from the previous year.

  • Provide extra support. When a child is starting the new school year, especially if it's a transition year, a little extra support can't hurt. Talk with your child about his or her fears regarding school and maintain an open dialogue throughout the year.
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