It’s back-to-school time across New Jersey. While it’s an exciting time for some parents, others are having a tough time knowing their sending their babies off to the classroom for the first time.

“It’s important for parents to prepare themselves because if they are anxious, the child will definitely pick up on it and that will exacerbate any of the anxiety the child might have,” said Dr. Steven Tobias, Director for the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown. “The parent can’t fake being okay about their child going off to school. The parent really needs to know in their heart that this is good for their child to do, this is an important step in their development.”

“It’s also important for the parent to approach it in a very positive way,” said Tobias. “At the same time, parents need to realize that anxiety in children is normal any time there’s a change or a transition. The more unknown there is, the more anxiety there tends to be. So, a new school can heighten anxiety, but it’s important for the parent to not overreact to that.”

Tobias recommends taking advantage of orientation programs offered by the school.

“Often when kids are entering pre-school or kindergarten, the schools offer orientation so the kids can see the school and their classroom and they can walk around the building and get familiar with their new surroundings. Some kids need it more than others. Some teachers offer individual meetings with them prior to the school year so the child can get to know them and begin to develop a personal relationship. Ultimately, that relationship and friendships with fellow students are what gets them through.”

“Parents need to figure out what will help them the most. If they want to be involved in the child’s school and they feel that that will help them reduce their own anxiety about sending their child to school, then that’s what they should do,” said Tobias. “But, it’s also a wonderful opportunity for parents to develop their own interests and have their own lives separate from the children.”