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Adjusting to a New School Year
Q: My second-grader just started school and he hates it -- the work is too hard, the day is too long, etc. We had nine weeks of misery last year when he began first grade; I had hoped things would be better this year. He is a young second-grader and sensitive, but very bright and capable. Last year we talked, cried, and listened for ten weeks then he suddenly adjusted and things were fine. How can I help him overcome his anxiety this year?
A: Some children react each year to a new grade level in the same way as your son. At first the adjustment is difficult, but eventually they feel more comfortable. You may find that the same thing happens next year in third grade and then the next in fourth, but the adjustment period each time should get shorter.
Talk with your son's teacher and school counselor. Explain what is going on with him and ask for their assistance. You may hear that the teacher sees none of your son's anxious behaviors at school, as your son may feel more comfortable expressing his concerns about school with you. Ask the teacher to help your son feel good about being in her classroom, assisting him with making friends on the playground and at lunch. The teacher can also help your son feel confident in his ability to do the school work.
The counselor can also help with your son's adjustment. She can offer support in the mornings by meeting your son at the door and walking him to his classroom if morning separations are difficult. The counselor can also give your son some individual time or include him in a small group to help build his self-confidence.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.