As the start of a new school year begins again, many students are adapting to new classrooms, classmates, subject matter, and teachers. Parents are hearing from their children about new-school-year nervousness and wondering what they can do to help. As parents, it can be hard to know what you can do for your children, especially when you aren’t with them during the school day. Their new teachers are the first ones they’ll turn to when they’re having a bad day, struggling in class, or not feeling well. But if they don’t feel comfortable communicating with their teachers then their needs may go unmet in the classroom. This build-up of stress at school can lead to behavioral issues in class and at home, social and academic anxiety, and low self-esteem. Learning how to self-advocate means that your child will be able to reach out to their teachers and other trusted adults to express their needs and speak up for themselves while building confidence in their ability to handle new situations. Being able to ask for what you need is a skill that even adults struggle with, but it can be practiced by students in the classroom to overcome the nervousness of a new school year and help your child feel like they can reach out to their teachers. 

Here are three ways to help your child connect with their teacher, self-advocate, and overcome nervousness about school:

Meet the Teacher and Orientation Day

This first interaction with their new teachers is an opportunity to help your child feel more comfortable in this new space and with these new people. Sit with them at their desk and help them learn the names of the students they will sit next to. Challenge them to find things around the room that are familiar to them like a book they’ve read before, the same pencil sharpener as last year, or other students that they know. Walk with them to the nearest bathroom and water fountain so they will know the way. Engage them in a conversation with their new teacher that feels relaxed and informal. All of these things are ways of making the unknown of the new year seem less daunting and more manageable for your child. 

Letter Writing

For many children, the thought of introducing themselves to a new teacher on Meet the Teacher Day or the first day of the school year can make them feel nervous, shy, or awkward. However, for those who feel more comfortable writing about themselves, another option is to help them write a letter or an email to their new teacher. Including an introduction lets your child talk about themselves and their interests. Then, ask them to write about some of their strengths in the classroom, e.g…… “Some of my strengths in class are math and I like helping the teacher.” It builds self-confidence to be able to talk about the things you’re good at. Next, include some of their struggles, e.g. “Sometimes I struggle with reading and focusing.” Lastly, invite them to talk about some solutions that past teachers have come up with or that they thought of themselves, e.g. “My teacher last year helped me focus by having me sit in the front and giving me something to do with my hands while listening. I think it would help me with reading if I could sound words out loud when I don’t know them.” This is a way for your child to self-advocate for solutions they think will benefit them. It also helps them to feel more comfortable asking their teacher for help because they know their teacher will already be familiar with some of their struggles.

This activity can also be useful if your child gets a new teacher mid-year or has to transfer schools. They can also write to update their teacher on strengths, struggles, and solutions as the school year goes on if new material presents different challenges. 

For older students, this is also something they can do throughout the year as their assignments pick up in different classes. Being able to write an email to their teacher explaining what they’re struggling with and what they feel they need to help them can be beneficial whether their class is Band or Calculus. 


Many teachers are happy to talk with students as they arrive at school before the day’s work begins. If something fun has happened over the weekend, mention that their teacher might like to hear about it too. If they had a particularly hard time with last night’s homework, ask them to check it over with the teacher as they come into class. Some teachers might offer to talk with students at recess if they want to chat or offer time at lunch for older students to study or review material they’re struggling with. Let your child know that it’s okay to use these times to connect more to their teachers and take advantage of the extra help that the teacher is willing to offer.

It’s important to remind your child that it’s normal to feel nervous at the start of the new year and that many of their classmates feel the same way. Sometimes simply expressing empathy and understanding is enough for children to understand that their feelings aren’t too big for them to handle. Tell your child about some of the things you struggled with in school and what you did to overcome those struggles or what you wish you had done to handle them. Things tend to improve as they spend more time with their teacher and classmates, the routine becomes familiar, and they learn what to expect daily. If the anxiety is impeding your child’s ability to function in school or other areas of their life, consider working with a therapist to help assess your child’s situation and implement anxiety management strategies.


Written By Hannah DeMello, LCSWA


All through September we are highlighting resources around Back to School and Talking to Your Children about Mental Health. If you or a loved one need professional support, our counselors at Mathews Counseling are available for appointments. Request to book today!




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