14 August 2006

Easing kids' fears about starting middle school and high school

Here's how Kvetch helped her kids deal with the anxiety of starting middle school and high school:

Both my kids are starting new schools in two weeks.  My daughter will sashay off to junior high and my son will go full steam ahead into <gulp> high school.  And although both of them were ready to say buh-bye to their schools, and look for every excuse on the planet to be a little more grown-up, they are also in sync because they're terrified.  And that's normal.  You know that and I know that, but they don't.

Both of them, at dinner tonight stated their reluctance to be at the bottom of the totem pole of their new school.  They wondered, in unison, how on earth they would find their way on day one.   And while I thought it was obvious,  it wasn't to them all.  They know so much at this age -- sometimes its important to remember the simple stuff.  The basics.  They are kids and they were imagining wandering aimlessly around, alone, on the first day of school.  I simply said, "No one else in your grade has ever been there before either.  Not one person. You won't be alone. Think about it."  You know what they said? "Oh, yeah, you're right."  They were so busy and self-involved (of course) they didn't see what was right in front of them.

It's important not to make assumptions about what our preteens and teens can process on their own. We never want to underestimate them, but we don't want to leave them blowing in the wind either.   The result? Minds at ease and mom is right all in the same day.  We totally went out for ice cream.

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One thing that really helped me with new school anxiety was to go to the building before school started and walk around (be sure to check in with the office!) With my class schedule in hand walk I could walk from classroom door to classroom door in order (1st period to 2nd period, etc) so I felt, at least, I won't be totally lost in the building. I even did this when I went to college, noting coffee shops between my classes!

Look into the various schools transition programs. The high school I work at started a "Freshman Rookie Camp" years ago that has become the norm for most incoming Frosh. They come a day early for an introduction to the building lead by tons of upperclass volunteers, their teachers, a pep assembly, a little tlc from their counselor, administrator, and it is all capped of with a Freshman mixer that night where the various kids from the various feeder middle schools get to know each other.

If your school doesn't have a program like this, suggest it to the PTA, and administration, or volunteer to help get it off the ground for those kids who come next year....

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