Just like you feel a little nervous when you start something new, so might your child. Depending on your child's personality, the start of school jitters may be mild or more dramatic, or may manifest in other behaviors. If your child is suddenly extra-cranky or reverting to younger behaviors in the days before school starts, you might want to consider start of school jitters as the culprit.
Jitters are normal
Your child on the first day of school is stepping into something new. Even if it's the same old school and the same friends, there is an unknown element that can feel scary, or even overwhelming. Will the teacher like me? Will it be as fun as last year? Will I be able to do the work? Where's the restroom? Just like you have jitters stepping into a new job (even if it's at the same company), or into a new role in the community, so, too, may your child have jitters going into the new school year. It's very normal.
Make early contact
If possible, make early contact with teachers and classmates. Some schools have meet the teacher nights in advance of the start of school. Take advantage of this. It's an opportunity for your child to meet his or her teacher under less pressured conditions.
Some schools make class lists available prior to the start of school. If your school does this, you'll be able to make connections with other families before school starts so your child really will know someone walking in to the class on the first day. If you are a really ambitious mom, you can even organize a brief meet up at the playground for the entire class. Bring popsicles.
Even with such preparations, there will likely still be some jitters. Reassure, reassure, reassure your child that he or she is not the only one with this anxiety. You can talk about your own nerves and even strategies you use to manage them. Time to break out the yoga breathing!
You may not be a fan of bribing your child in general, but maybe don't call it that. For the extremely nervous, the promise of a trip to the local ice cream shop after school can be the last push it takes to get a child into the classroom on a first day of school. Call it a reward, and be prepared to talk about how it was fine -- good, even! -- in spite of the nerves. Praise and pride go a little farther when hot fudge is involved.
More about preparing for the school year
Monday Mom Challenge: Preparing for back to school
Preparing kids for back to school
Preparing for the first school bus ride