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8/8/22blog post

5 tips to ease school bus anxiety

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After a summer filled with family adventures and quality time spent with your child, back to school season has rolled back around already. For some children entering elementary and middle school, this may mean the start of riding the bus.

Riding the bus is an important lesson in independence for children. It can also be a source of separation anxiety for both parents and kids. This transition in your child’s educational journey requires significant trust in your child, their peers, and the bus driver to get them to school safe and sound.

5 tips to help ease anxiety related to your child’s first bus ride:

1. Let your child ride the bus

It is normal for parents to want to drive their child on the first day of school, especially if either parent or child is experiencing back-to-school related anxiety. However, having your child ready at the bus stop on the first day will help establish their routine, your routine, and even the bus driver’s routine. Be caring and understanding of your child’s fears, but encourage them to be brave in trying something new.

2. Have a pick-up and drop-off plan

Come up with a plan to take your child to the bus stop and be there when they return. If work or other obligations make this impossible, try to have another familiar adult, sibling or friend there for your child. This can help ease your anxiety and comfort your child as they get used to a new routine.

3. Talk about bus safety and rules

Make sure your child knows how to be safe around the road and other vehicles. Talking about safety rules with your child before the first day of school can help both of you feel more comfortable with bus transportation. You might talk to them about:

  • Waiting for the bus to stop completely before walking toward it
  • Always looking both ways to be sure traffic has stopped before crossing the street
  • Only walking in front of the bus when it is stopped and the driver says it is safe
  • Staying in their seat while the bus is moving
  • Using a quite voice on the bus to avoid causing distractions for the bus driver

4. Find a friend for your child to ride with

Having a friend who will be riding the same bus as your child can help ease their anxiety as they leave home on the first day of school. Encourage your child to talk to the other children at the bus stop or on the bus. If possible, find a time for your child to meet their bus driver before the first day of school. This may help them feel more comfortable with the new transition.

5. Meet the bus driver before the first day of school 

If possible, arrange a time to meet your child's bus driver prior to the first day. Most bus drivers practice their routes leading up to the start of the new year. Get in contact with your child's school to find out when your bus driver will be doing this and see if it's possible for you and your child to meet the bus driver at the bus stop. This can help ease first day jitters. 

If your child is experiencing extreme anxiety about riding the bus for the first time or returning to school this year, try these tips to help your child work through these feelings. 
 

For more back-to-school tips, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Mary Beth DeWitt, PhD.

division chief behavioral health, psychology
view full bio