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The start of the school year can be full of anticipation and excitement for kids of all ages. However, the multitude of changes, expectations, and challenges involved can also be a source of stress for many kids. If your child is just entering school, transitioning between schools, or simply needs more support as he starts the new school year, taking time for preparation may help reduce start-of-year anxiety.  If your child is:
Starting school for the first time
1.       Visit the school ahead of time. This may be during a scheduled open house time when you are able to walk through the school and meet the teacher. It may be helpful to visit not only the classroom, but also the library, cafeteria, and bathroom. Talk with your child about what may happen there, sounds she may hear, and what he may see. If the school is not open for exploration, you can still visit the outside, walk the perimeter, and talk about what’s inside.
2.       Play on the school playground so your child can become familiar with the playground equipment. Take a sibling or friend so that your child can learn to use the equipment interactively rather that only in solitary exploration. You can discuss common safety rules to help your child be aware that there may be ways to use the equipment that are not allowed and explain why.
3.       At least a week or two before the transition to school, start implementing school time routines. For example, if your child has become accustomed to going to bed and waking up later, start the transition to the new sleep schedule gradually, possibly 10 minutes at a time. Allow enough time for your child’s rhythm to adjust to help minimize morning grogginess by the start of the school year. And, if you child has become used to getting dressed and ready for the day on an extended, leisurely timeline, you can plan more morning activities that require completing these tasks more efficiently.
4.       Shopping for new school supplies can be fun and can help get your child excited to start school, so take her school supply shopping with you and let her pick out some of the supplies. You can even begin to integrate back-to-school skills of reading, writing, and using the eyes by having your child help make a numbered shopping list by writing or drawing the items. He can help cross items off the list and scan shelves for what’s next.
5.       If your child generally avoids seated tabletop tasks during the summer, you many want to set aside a time each day to reintroduce a seated or fine motor task. You can try to keep it fun and summer related – for example, writing or drawing daily activities, practicing letters and numbers in sidewalk chalk or writing in dirt or sand, or adding a tabletop task into an obstacle course.
6.       If your child is a movement-seeker who has been enjoying a lot of outdoor play over the summer, keep in mind that he will likely come home “hungry” for some movement. You can try to work movement – even if only 10 minutes – into the morning routine and set aside time after school for at least an hour.
Older and moving to a new school or up to middle school or high school:
1.       Help your child set up an organization system so he can manage the academic demands of his new school.  Many schools give out planners, so help him maintain his planner and periodically check his backpack to make sure it is organized and he has all the books and supplies he needs for class. Some teachers have their own page on the school website, if your child’s teacher/s has/ have a page make sure he checks for homework updates.
2.       Shopping for new school clothes can be a fun way to help kids get excited about the new school year. Let your child pick out a couple of outfits that she will feel confident in and be excited to wear to school.
3.       Find out before the school year starts about whether there are electives, sports, and after-school activities that your child may be interested in signing up for.
4.       Ask the principal if you can walk the halls of the new school with your child, find out what his schedule is going to be beforehand if possible and map the route she will take from classroom to classroom
5.       If your child will have a locker, help him practice unlocking it on a dial locker or key lock
6.       Make sure to start re-establishing earlier bedtimes and wake-up routine a few weeks before school starts, especially if you child has gotten used to summertime rules of staying up late and sleeping in. You could try to set appointments or activities in the morning so there will be a reason to have to get up and get ready earlier than usual.
7.       Reassure your child that all the adults in the school are there to help her, she doesn’t have to be afraid to ask for help