elementary school children smiling in front of a school bus

Learn how to communicate for success and minimize anxiety when heading back to school with these simple communication techniques.

The upcoming new school year brings plenty of transitions: adjusting to a new grade, a new school, new classes and new friends.  For some of us, transitions can be riddled with anxiety.

The biggest buffer to get off to a good start, especially when anxious, is non-verbal communication and gesturing.

Communication is also a tool we can harness to help buffer the blows of awkwardness. Try these six easy steps to make you or your child’s back-to-school transition as easy as 1-2-3.

1. Break the ice with a piece of gum

Take out a piece of gum for yourself, and then offer a new student a piece. Then ask them a relevant question about school, like, “ hey, do you know where the lunchroom is?” Then introduce yourself.  That should break the ice nicely and get the conversation going.

2. Try to plan to have lunch with a familiar face

Having a buddy for lunch can make the first day of school less overwhelming. If you have different lunches, see if you have any classes together.  If not, make a plan to meet after school that first day.

Rear view of kids in front of the school building

3. Dress for success

Be your individual self! Make sure your duds follow school guidelines but add your own cool twist, either through accessories or book bag add-ons. It tells something about yourself in a non-verbal way and can spark a conversation.

4. Watch your body language

Try to be open by showing you are approachable. Keep your head held up, show wandering eye contact and keep your legs somewhat stretched out and crossed while sitting. All show an open student who is willing to engage.  Keeping a relaxed posture shows you’re approachable.

5. Use thought re-framing

If anxious thoughts come up, tell yourself, “everybody is just like me and trying to figure it out.” Acknowledge that you are feeling anxious and tell yourself, “I got this. I can do this. It’s just new, and it’s okay.”

6. Join a school club or volunteer

This is one of the best ways to quickly become part of a group at school and feel included. It is a set-up for success because everyone in the club or organization has the common denominator of being interested in the same subject matter.

Lori Gordon-Michaeli, LCSW, of Farmington Hills, owns Journey Within LLC Behavioral Health Services in Southfield, MI. (www.jwithin.com). She earned her master’s in social work at the University of Michigan. In her practice, she uses various methods including EMDR, CBT, DBT, TRT, art and journaling. She made aliyah to Israel at age 18 and lived there until age 42. She studied at Haifa University and is is fluent in Hebrew. As a world traveler, she has a global view and a background in world religions and diversity.  

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