Back to School Anxiety for Latino Kids? What About for Spanish Speakers?

Posted: Apr 21 2014

About 4 years ago, a half-half cousin (daughter of a half-cousin) Carla came to live in the U.S. with her folks from Central America. She was about 6 years old, and spoke only español. 4 years ago, she was dealing with back to school jitters this month August.

Not only was it back to school, it was back to school – in a language she didn’t speak, with kids who she’d never met, in a new country! Needless to say – Carla was anxious (I mean – I did that as a teenager as a foreign exchange student – and it was frightening!) So at the end of August – she headed off to a San Antonio Independent School district elementary school, with lots of encouragement from her family. (But you better believe her family was nervous!)

Some tools her parents used to manage her school anxiety:

Index/Contact Card: Carla’s parents put an index card in her backpack which had important names and phone numbers. They wrote the index card together with her, so she felt involved in the process.

Read Books: Carla’s parents read with her a few books about going to school. Younger children can especially benefit from this, though it’s not a bad idea for older kids as well.

What If: While Carla’s parents didn’t do this as she was too young, this is a pretty good idea to do with older children. This can help mitigate that worst case scenario that many kids seem to get into.

Language Anxiety: Carla was scared about not being able to communicate in English. Many members of the family stepped in to reassure her that a) she would learn it quickly and that b) many kids spoke Spanish just like her.

Visiting the School: Carla’s parents drove her to the school to see the school before she started going. This helped Carla get used to and visualize the school.

Talk About Anxiety: Carla’s parents talked about being nervous before she headed off for her first day of school. Carla’s folks also shared with her instances where they had been anxious and it helped to take the edge off Carla’s first day.

Positive Self Talk: Carla’s parents spent some time with Carla doing some confidence building talk – talking about her abilities, and relaxing.

How did it go? Well in the beginning it was a little tough but here we are 4 years later – and from what I hear, Carla’s doing great. She’s got lots of friends who speak both Spanish and English – mostly English. In fact Carla speaks fluent English now…in fact accentless English better than her folks!

-Hispanic.com staff

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