Ever had that dream about being late to work or missing a flight? No matter what you do, you can’t quite…make…it….

As summer draws to a close, anxiety can ratchet up in children having their own nightmares over going back to school. What if I get on the wrong bus? Forget my locker combination? Get lost in the maze of new hallways? Do something stupid that makes me an outcast?

It’s enough to make a nervous boy or girl hide under the covers and not come out.

Then there are the youngsters who live for summer and wish it would never end. It’s been pool, parties, and Pikachu for almost three months. To them, the first day of school looms as their first day in Purgatory.

So, how do we help these kids and others kick the back-to- school blues?

Girls (and Boys) Just Wanna Have Fun
With everything that goes on over the summer, lots of children don’t see their school friends until classes start up again. Encourage kids to look forward, not back, and see the fun coming right around the corner as they reconnect with classroom buddies.

● Arrange for kids to shop for school supplies together.
● Set up a play date or sleepover the week before school starts.
● Invite school friends over for an end-of-summer BBQ.
● Suggest students meet up on the first day of school and walk in together.

Comparing schedules, seeing who’s got which teacher, and teaming up for tryouts and auditions can all bolster those school year bonds.

You might also create a calendar of events full of fun things you can do as a family over the upcoming fall months, such as harvest parties, hayrides, and football games. Don’t forget to plan a special treat after the first day of school, too!

Building Confidence Before the Doors Open
One of the scariest monsters filling anxious young minds is The Unknown. That mysterious beast can be particularly intimidating as a new school year looms. But you can help kids wrestle fears to the ground.

Worried about missing the bus? Walk out to the bus stop together. Talk about when to get there, where to stand, and what they need to bring with them every day. Discuss all they need to do at home to get ready on time. Also let them know what the backup plan is if they do miss the bus.

Is this their first year at this particular school? “Try to give your child as much exposure to the school as you can in a non- threatening, playful way,” says New York-certified child psychologist and registered play therapist Dr. Laurie Zelinger. Enjoy a favorite snack at the school playground. Have the child write their name in chalk on a sidewalk. Play school, with the child pretending to be a teacher. Take photographs they can look at over the summer so the school feels familiar in the fall.

Anxious about navigating the building? Dr. Rochelle Harris, a psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., suggests getting your child’s schedule about a week before classes start, then walking the halls with them to learn the

building layout. Locate their locker and practice opening it, especially if it has a combination lock. “It can be a panicky thing for kids if their locker sticks and they can’t open it,” Dr. Harris says.

Sensing Something More Serious
Sometimes, the monsters are real. A child may be struggling with a subject, unable to grasp concepts. They may be clashing with a teacher – or dodging a bully.

“Encourage the child to open the lines of communication with you,” Dr. Zelinger says. “Ask them to tell you if they’re feeling unsafe, or if something is scary for them, or if they are having trouble with something. They have to know you are in this together.”

Creating a plan of action is key, Dr. Harris says. “If your kid had trouble in math last year, tell them you are going to start the process of getting them more support, and then follow through.” If their problem is with a teacher, set up a meeting between you, your child, the teacher, and the principal to explore ways the situation can be resolved.

Bullying is not to be tolerated, in any shape or form. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides resources to help families dealing with both in-person and cyber-bullying. Visit StopBullying.gov.

Parent, Relax Thyself
Children are expert at picking up on and reflecting their parents’ anxiety. Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Sussex, points to over control and overinvolvement as parenting traits that can create an anxious, worrying child. He says that if you want to end  your child with good mental health, acceptable levels of anxiety, and a tendency to worry only when it is a useful thing to do, “Mothers should have a close, interpersonal relationship with their children, but not be overinvolved in what the child is doing. Fathers need to be supportive and encouraging, while staying close.”