Parent's Resource Center

Oh no - it's school time again! Lots of kids feel nervous or even scared on the first day of school because of all the new things: new teachers, new friends, and maybe even a new school. Luckily, these "new" worries only stick around for a little while. You can beat the back-to-school blues by knowing what to expect.


The First Day
Most teachers kick off the school year by introducing themselves and talking about all the cool stuff you'll be doing that year. Some teachers give students a chance to tell something about themselves to the rest of the class.

And of course, lots of teachers go over classroom rules so you'll know what's allowed and what's not. Pay close attention to this part to find out whether you'll have to raise your hand to ask a question or if it's not OK to chew gum in class!

Kids in older grades probably will know more people in their classes on the first day. But even if you've already met the kids sitting next to you, remember that it's a new year and that first impressions can last. Try to say hello to both kids you know and kids who are new in your class, and be friendly. Everyone's a little nervous or excited, so make the first move - you'll be glad you did, and so will your new friend!

Fifth or sixth grade can signal a move to middle school or junior high, where you'll find lockers, homeroom (this is just what it sounds like - a classroom you'll go to each morning, kind of like your "home" in the school), and moving from classroom to classroom for each subject. Your teachers know that this is a big change from elementary school and will help you adjust.

Most teachers let you pick your own seat on the first day, but by the second or third morning, they'll have mapped out a seating plan. It's a good idea to write down in your notebook where your seat is so you don't forget.

How Do You Feel About School?
If you're like just about every other kid, you're probably a little nervous about the first day. To help battle the butterflies fluttering in your stomach, it might help to bring a favorite pencil or wear a special outfit on the first day. Lots of kids feel pressure to buy a new outfit for the start of the school year, but the real trick is just to be comfortable. Wear your favorite pair of jeans or that funky T-shirt you got on vacation this summer. Every time you look down, it's a guaranteed smile.

What if you hate school by the end of day one? Teachers recommend giving things some time to sort themselves out - once you know your way around the building and are used to the school-day routine, you'll probably feel better. If you still have those feelings after a couple weeks, be sure to talk to your mom or dad or your teacher about how you're feeling. It might also help to talk to the guidance counselor at your school to discuss your feelings. It's the guidance counselor's job to help make school a good experience for you.

Packing Your School Bag
Some teachers mail a specific list of supplies (such as pencils, notebooks, and erasers) to your house over the summer so that you'll know what you need to bring with you. Start with this list of basic stuff and add to it whatever else you think will help make the school day a bit easier - a pocket dictionary to check your spelling or a few dollars to buy an emergency lunch in the school cafeteria, for example.

The most important tip about backpacks is to pack them the night before to prevent last-minute morning panic. Check to make sure that you'll have everything you'll need for the day, especially your homework and gym clothes.

Packing a Lunch With Pizzazz
Maybe your school offers healthy lunches in the cafeteria, but there will always be a day here and there when you don't like what's on the menu. Packing your lunch can give you just as many options as the cafeteria, and this way you'll know for sure that you'll like your lunch.

To get your fruits and veggies, ask your mom or dad to cut up whatever's in season and put it in single-serving containers. Good choices include oranges, pineapple, grapes, carrots, broccoli, and cucumbers. Include a container of salad dressing for veggies or peanut butter for dipping apple slices.

Think lunch has to be a bologna sandwich or a thermos of chicken noodle soup? Not anymore! Wraps made with tortillas and bean dips, extra slices of vegetable pizza left from dinner, and cold spaghetti are healthy favorites - and are as fun as a sandwich.

To find healthy lunches in the cafeteria, look for baked rather than fried items (like a baked potato instead of french fries) and avoid salty or high-fat picks like chips, cookies, ice cream, and whole-fat milk. Go for skim milk, fruit, or frozen yogurt instead.

If You Get Sick at School
Who hasn't gotten queasy at school or taken a tumble on the playground that resulted in a bloody scrape? If this happens to you, talk to your teacher or the school nurse about what to do. The school nurse and your teacher can handle minor injuries and headaches, but they will call your parents or guardians if they think you need to see your doctor or go home to bed.

Most schools ask for a note from your mom or dad if you miss school due to illness. You can usually get notes from your teacher to cover any work you missed while you were out sick, or you can ask a buddy to pick up an extra copy of any handouts and take notes in class for you. If you feel up to it, try to read your school books while you rest, but if you don't - that's OK. School can wait - it's more important that you take care of yourself.

Tips for Making School Cool
Follow these tips to prepare the way for a successful first day, and all the days that follow:

  • Get enough sleep so you'll be able to stay awake in class.
  • Eat a balanced breakfast to give you the energy you'll need.
  • Try to go to school with a positive attitude every day (although it's OK to have a blue funk sometimes).
  • Give school your best effort.
  • Develop good work habits. That means writing down your assignments and turning in your homework on time.
  • Take your time with assignments in and out of the classroom. If you don't understand something, ask the teacher.
  • Keep a sense of humor. One teacher we know shows his new students a picture of himself graduating high school - a grinning ape in a red graduation cap and gown. This usually makes the kids laugh, and it's a good way to remind them that school is fun!

Reviewed by: Steve Dowshen, MD and Joan Meek, MD
Date reviewed: June 1999