By Susan Stiffleman
Some children naturally embrace change, eagerly weaving new people into their lives. But many kids form attachments slowly and cautiously, making the challenge of bonding with a new teacher an additional stressor when the school year begins.
Every teacher has his/her unique teaching style, personality and classroom rules, requiring time and effort for children to figure out how to sync up and feel at ease in their classroom. For many kids, the process generates a great deal of anxiety.
Here are six tips that will help your child adjust to a new teacher:
1. Visit school before the new school year begins, when the teacher is setting up the classroom and he/she and your child can get to know one another in a more relaxed way. If that isn't possible, offer to help the teacher before or after school with your child in tow so there's a chance for conversation without the distraction of other children.
2. Create a list of "My Favorite Things" for your child and his teacher to complete. It might include things like, "Favorite movie", "Best dessert in the world", and "Coolest birthday ever". This will allow your child and his teacher to discover shared interests, an important step in forging genuine attachment.
3. Conspire with your child's teacher so your son or daughter "accidentally" hears him/her (the teacher) gossiping about your child in a good way. When a child believes the teacher likes who they are as a person (often made more believable when it's overheard), it fosters an authentic sense of connection.
4. Ask the teacher to provide a list of expectations that will help your youngster understand what it takes to succeed in their classroom. The more your child knows about what pleases this particular teacher -- or pushes her buttons -- the better equipped she'll be to avoid potential triggers while focusing on the plusses.
5. At the end of each school day, ask your child what went well. While it's important to let your child vent about difficult moments, don't interview them for what went wrong. Instead, help them start emphasizing the good things that they might otherwise overlook, like a moment when the teacher smiled at their joke, or the friendly way she greeted him/her at the start of the day. It's easy to ignore evidence of the ways a teacher does demonstrate their affection for a child if he or she believes the teacher's mean, scary or "hates me!"
6. Schedule a meeting to talk about ways to help your child if she continues to feel uncomfortable with her new teacher after school has been in session for a few weeks.
Your children are going to have to learn to get along with all kinds of people in life. By helping them adjust to this year's new teacher, you'll be equipping them with important skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
Parent Coach, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.
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