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RISMEDIA, August 16, 2010—While most parents think of back-to-school as an exciting time marked by new backpacks, school supplies and outfits, it can also mean stress and anxiety for many children. As families get ready for the first day of a new school year, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) reminds parents that back-to-school can be difficult for many children, especially if they are going to school for the first time or changing schools.

While parents can’t be there to hold their child’s hand on the first day, there are a number of things they can do to set their child up for success.

Branch out. Friends are often a main concern for children starting in a new school. If your child is younger, spend the afternoon at a community park or pool in your new school zone and encourage your child to play with someone new. Make friends with another parent and initiate a play date or get-together. If your child is a teen or tween, encourage participation on an athletic team or school club that would help facilitate friendships with fellow classmates.

Celebrate past success. Yes, your child is going to a new school, but don’t forget to remind your student that many things will stay the same. For example, if your child is moving from preschool to kindergarten, reassure your student that there will be a teacher and time to play at recess just like in preschool, as well as friends that will be going to the same school.

Plan and practice. Routines are reassuring for children who aren’t comfortable with change. If your child is in elementary school, do a run-through to show your child how to find their classroom and the bathroom, as well as where they will eat lunch and the place you will be waiting to meet them when school is out. Then it won’t feel so strange to your child on the first day of school. If your child is older, schedule a school tour with the guidance counselor before school starts to learn the lay of the land, or even map out where their classes are located.

Meet the teacher. If possible, plan a time for your child to meet the teacher(s) before school starts. It will make the first day far less intimidating if your child recognizes a familiar face.

Think and act positive. Make sure you are positive and upbeat about the change your child is experiencing, even if you are feeling some apprehension. Your positive attitude and outlook will help your child feel confident.

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