Hudson Valley Parent

HVP September 2016

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Page 36 of 39 n Hudson Valley Parent 37 By HEIDI SMITH LUEDTKE I f your child is starting a new school this year, he may be con- cerned about finding his class- room, getting along with his teacher or making new friends. Academic pressure only increases kids' anxiet- ies. Parents can actually help children confront and conquer new-school jitters. Here are 10 tips to help kids get comfortable as possible: 1. Find friends - "Don't make a kid go in cold," says early childhood education specialist Maureen Taylor, Ed.D. "Spend your summer finding and introducing your child to stu- dents their age or younger who will attend the same school." Even one familiar face can go a long way. 2. Check yourself - "Some- times kids pick up on parents' worries about sending the child to school," says clinical psychologist Dr. Lawrence Levy. Be vigilant of signals you send. Talking with the principal, teacher and other parents can calm your fears and prevent them from amplifying kids' stress. 3. Visit the school - Attend orientation and walk around the buildings and grounds with your child. If students must walk from one class to another between peri- ods, practice the shortest route so your child knows he can get from gym to English class in time. 4. Talk it up - Count down the days until school begins with X's on the calendar or using a paper chain in the new school colors. Create a sense of anticipation and excitement. Use optimistic words and phrases to give her story a positive tone. 5. Meet the staff - Head to campus before school starts to meet the principal, teachers and other personnel - including coaches, the nurse and the office staff - if possi- ble. Many staff members go back to work before the first day of school. 6. Be a player - Pack a picnic lunch and go to the school play- ground and pend unstructured time in your child's soon-to-be stomping grounds. Familiarity with the out- door environment and play equip- ment makes recess and lunch time less intimidating for school-age kids. 7. Team up - "Make your child a participant in back-to-school preparations instead of doing things for him," Levy says. Shop together for supplies, clothing and athletic gear. Let your child express person- al style and favorite hobbies with a special backpack or book covers. 8. Stack the deck - Work with your child to list appropriate get-to- know-you questions and personal facts she can use during early (and sometimes awkward) peer interac- tions. Knowing what to say eases fears about the social scene. 9. Anticipate academic challenges - The level of difficul- ty, class schedule or homework load may be different at your child's new school. Tune in to kids' concerns. Help your child create a plan to keep track of assignments and complete work on time. Look for tutors in subjects that are most challenging for your child. An academic plan of attack can relieve the performance pressure your child may feel. 10. Take a token - Let your child select a small token to take with him to school as his secret worry-busting weapon. A tiny toy, a favorite piece of clothing, or a silly photo of the family dog can bring a smile to a nervous new student. "Some kids breeze into a new classroom as if they did it every day," Taylor says. "Others are anxious and withdrawn whether they are 5 years old or 11." Offer extra reassurance and be patient while your student adjusts. Before long, she'll be singing the school fight song and looking forward to the upcoming carnival. Heidi Smith Luedtke, Ph.D., is a personality psychologist, former edu- cator and mom of two. She is also the author of Detachment Parenting. New School? No Worries!

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