The new school year can be stressful for both children and their parents and family members. “It’s common for children to feel anxious at the beginning of a school year, especially when they’re about to start a new school,” says Amanda Nickerson, director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the Graduate School of Education.
Nickerson says issues children might be concerned about include who their teachers and classmates will be, whether they will fit in, and whether they can get the work done at school. Additionally, students with separation anxiety may worry about their parents and family while they are away from them. Then there are the issues of bullying and school violence.
Nickerson discusses with UBNow how parents can help their children overcome these fears, how to deal with bullying and how to discuss violence at school. (Note: The Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention Annual Conference will be held on October 12).
Fear of starting school
“Parents can acknowledge that it’s normal and common to feel anxious when they start school and ask if there are things their child is worried about so they can problem-solve and plan for it,” says Nickerson. “For example, some children may be concerned that they don’t know anyone in their class, so it can be helpful to encourage them to ask friends about their teachers and class schedule, or to reach out to friends’ parents about this find out. If they are concerned about getting around school, take the opportunity to visit the school or get in touch with someone who will guide them around.”
The importance of a routine
“It helps to have a good routine that starts at least a week before school starts,” Nickerson says. “This includes going to bed and getting up at regular times, planning lunch and snacks, knowing how the child is getting to and from school, and being prepared with school supplies. It is important that parents do not allow their children to avoid school out of fear as this will only increase the fear and make it more difficult to return.”
Discussion about school violence
“Parents can take the time to talk about it, but shouldn’t force it, and children’s questions should guide those conversations,” advises Nickerson. “While parents are understandably concerned about things like school shootings given the media attention, we want to make sure we don’t transfer our fears and worries to our children. asking questions about how safe our children feel on their way to school; Find out about the school’s safety and bullying prevention policies; It is helpful to talk about what children know about safety in different situations. Parents can also provide clear, direct facts about school violence, but it’s best not to include drastic or frightening details. It is also recommended to give accurate assurances of safety.”
Ensuring children are not being bullied – or bullying themselves
“There is no magic formula to protect a child from bullying, but there are some things parents can do to reduce the likelihood that their child will be involved in bullying and to help them cope if it comes to that,” says Nickerson. “Keeping lines of communication with children open is crucial. It’s helpful to talk regularly with children about peer relationships, bullying, and other social interactions—not by testing them, but by listening to them and learning about their interactions. Showing an interest in what is happening and how the child thinks about and deals with it increases the likelihood that parents will find out about bullying when it happens.”
recognize warning signs
“Warning signs that may indicate a child is being bullied or experiencing some other stressor can include changes in behavior such as: physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, headache, and trouble sleeping that are not explained by illness; unexplained cuts or bruises; loss of friends; and decreased self-esteem.”
Recommendations for younger vs. older children
“Bullying begins in preschool, but it generally peaks in grades four through seven and comes to a head in the transition to new schools—elementary to middle school, middle school to high school—when new social structures are established be,” explains Nickerson. “It tends to decrease later in high school and beyond, but by that time it can also change shape into related behaviors like sexual harassment or bullying.” With younger children, we want to emphasize the importance of informing a trusted adult when bullying is occurring. While we want older children to have this option as well, it’s also important to give them several strategies to deal with and advocate for others. Older children are more likely to be cyberbullyed, so having guidance on how to use technology is a good proactive way to prevent cyberbullying.”
Parents can help
“It’s important to be a good role model,” notes Nickerson. “Treating others with respect and dignity and being confident in difficult situations and solving problems helps guide our children. It is also crucial to have consistent and high expectations for children’s behavior and to monitor their behavior (including time on the phone, time on the computer, etc.). Parents can help children problem-solve how to deal with different situations and give them a range of options: tell a trusted adult, reach out to others who are being rejected or bullied, not engage in bullying and find others, those who do it don’t like it and can resist it. We have more information for parents about bullying in this fact sheet.”
Promoting a positive school culture and student well-being at home
“Many of the strategies I mentioned for parents to ensure that students don’t become involved in bullying are applicable here: role modeling, open communication, problem-solving,” says Nickerson. “Having a positive and supportive attitude towards education and the diversity of people and opinions the children will encounter, and providing opportunities to teach and strengthen social-emotional skills – being aware of self and others’ emotions, behavior and Managing emotions, relationship skills, decision making – are also helpful.”