The anticipation and excitement of a new year and, perhaps, a new school, also carries some anxiety for students of all ages, and, let’s face it, parents, too.

Starting the school year with confidence

Kids Back To School

Backpacks stuffed with fresh school supplies sit by the door. A snazzy new lunchbox waits to be packed. A carefully selected outfit hangs in the closet. Ready, set, go … the new school year is about to start.

The anticipation and excitement of a new year and, perhaps, a new school, also carries some anxiety for students of all ages, and, let’s face it, parents, too.

Open communication with your child about their concerns will go a long way toward preparing them for the next step and easing their fears.

Give your kids confidence to start the new school year with these five tips from Bradley Gerber, clinical psychologist at Sentara RMH Medical Center:

  • Forge friendships. A common concern among students of all ages is whether they will fit in. Peers become more and more important as kids get older – and they also influence decisions kids will make. Encourage children to gravitate toward a peer group you feel will create the best environment for them.

  • Evaluate expectations. The transition to middle school or high school can be unnerving as students navigate new routines and expectations. Provide your student with as much information as you can about the school and be sure the student has toured it. The more information and accurate knowledge children have, the less anxious they will feel.

  • Smooth teacher anxiety. The class lists come out and texts fly! Kids may be worried about their new teacher and whether he or she is the right fit. Find out from your child what about the teacher they are worried about. If you feel it’s a legitimate reason that the teacher may not be a good match for your child, schedule a time to talk to the teacher to get some perspective. Approach it as a collaboration and not an inquisition. The teacher will respond better.

  • Ease "new kid" worries. Families who have moved to a new town over the summer face a fresh start in every aspect of their lives. Being the "new kid" isn’t easy. Find out as much as possible about the new school for your student. Look online at the school website and even social media channels for the school. Visit the school as soon as you can and be sure to attend back-to-school events so your children can meet classmates before they start school.

  • Calm parent angst. Letting go of your child after a fun summer or starting a new stage, such as entering kindergarten or high school, can weigh heavily on a parent’s heart. This is normal! Every change has the potential to bring a sense of grief that a stage is over and a new phase is starting. Create a way to keep track of your thoughts and feelings. Devising a system to save pictures and accomplishment of your child at each stage can help the transition. Each new start offers exciting possibilities, too, for parents, as well as students.