No matter what grade your child is going into, back-to-school jitters are entirely normal. But there are ways to help ease your child’s justified anxiety.

It’s common for students to feel anxious when they are starting at a new campus, they are unsure if their friends will be in the same class(es), and nervous to meet their new teacher(s). Having open conversations, being a mindful listener, and preparing your child for the unknown are vital ways to turn your child’s stress into excitement for this new chapter.

The first step in understanding your child’s anxiety over returning to school is to listen to their thoughts and feelings. Hearing children out without dismissing their concerns is key to having an open conversation. And while it may be common knowledge, points out in a recent article, “when a child feels listened to, he is more likely to listen, and having been understood, he will understand your point of view as well. It helps parents and children form stronger bonds and relationships, and builds their self-esteem.” Listening to your child’s minor problems now will help them come forward with bigger problems in the future. Mari-Jane Williams, a writer for The Washington Post, interviewed parents, teachers, and counselors for advice on how to better listen to children. Former teacher and mother of three, Amanda Morin, disclosed an effective game to play that she calls “What If vs. What Is,” which can aid them in deciphering between fear and reality. If a child is fearful of how large the campus may be, you can point out that they already know the building, or schedule a tour of the campus so they may become familiar with the campus before the first day of school. While it’s easy to say to children not to worry about their fears, it’s equally as important to acknowledge their concerns and talk them through navigating those feelings.

In addition to scheduling a tour of an unknown campus, there is another way to prepare children for unfamiliar situations. Maybe they aren’t confident about making new friends at school. This is a perfect opportunity to include some “role-playing preparation,” Morin says. “Talk through different scenarios with them and go over appropriate reactions. You can also have a debrief session after school to talk about a social situation from the day that didn’t go well, and how they can approach it differently next time,” Williams points out in her article. If a child is particularly intimidated by meeting a new teacher, then perhaps reach out to them to see if they’re available to meet your child before the first day of school. Most teachers would be more than willing to help make these transitions as seamless as possible for your child.
Even though you may not be able to rid your child of their back-to-school jitters completely, you can help them manage their stress with open communication and preparation for the new year. In the end, keeping these lines of communication open will continue to help your child feel comfortable about coming to you and other adults with their problems, which is always a good thing.