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Therapy and the Human-Dog Bond

Children and Families #3 School Avoidance

The first day of school is a huge milestone for every child in every family.
Nervousness about a new experience is much more normal than it is otherwise. Here are some things that you can do to help your student prepare for the first day of school or the first day in a new school.

Take advantage of the many books available in the children’s section of your local library and bookstore. If your child will be beginning a new year in a different school from the one he or she attended last year, take a look at “Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School” by David Mackintosh (Little Brown). And, on the eternal question of friendship, take a look at another new book: “Will You Be My Friend?” by Peter Brown (Abrams).
Listen to your child’s concerns. Perhaps your child is one who asks a lot of questions such as ‘What will it be like? What if I get sick or need to go to the bathroom? Will I like the other kids? What if my teacher is mean?” If this sounds like your child, you are lucky. All you need to do is to reassuringly answer these questions. Of course, you’ll probably have to answer each question a dozen or more times. When you begin to tire from all that repetition try to remember why you are working so hard to be patient, so that your child will feel comfortable during those first hours and days in the new classroom or new school.
What about the anxious child who doesn’t ask questions? Then you can pose them yourself. One way of doing this is to reminisce or imagine out loud. “If I was going to my first day of school or starting a new school, I’d be worried about/wondering about.” Talk about this a bit, and then ask your child if he or she ever feels that way.
Encourage your child to imagine that first day of school and to express what he or she imagines. This can be done by making a drawing of the school or of the first day, or by making up a story featuring his or her favorite characters. Some children may enjoy talking to their favorite doll, stuffed animal or pet about what school will be like for them.
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