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Language & Learning

How to Overcome School Bus Fears

The bus can feel scary at first-for both of you! Here's how to make sure it's an easy trip

The start of kindergarten is a huge milestone, and for some kids, it comes with climbing those big black stairs to ride the school bus. Here's how to ease any first-day jitters.

Get to the root of it. Ask your child what he's worried about and talk it through. "He might be worried about the other boys and girls, where he'll sit on the bus, or when to get off," explains Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of the series Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids. For example, tell him that the driver makes sure all the kids get off the bus and there's a teacher who will lead students into school. If he's worried about where to sit, see if there are assigned seats for younger kids (there often are) or if there's a bus monitor on the bus to help. Your school or the transportation department for your district should have details.

Do a dry run. Call the school and ask for your particular route so you both know which way the bus will go (and get a sense of how many stops there are). Drive the route and, as you go, point out familiar landmarks, especially those that come right before your child gets off the bus so the route looks familiar on the big day. But also consider your kid's temperament when choosing what to share. "Some kids may find it comforting to know the roads the bus will take," says Kennedy-Moore. But anxious kids may feel it's their responsibility to be sure the bus is on track and worry if there's a change. For those kids, "it may be best for some kids to simply tell them, 'the bus driver is in charge and knows the route well,'" she adds.

Time it right. Gulping down breakfast and then running at top speed to meet the bus can make for a harried start to the day. Instead, practice walking to the stop to gauge how long it'll take the first time. Build in an additional 5 or 10 minutes to get to the bus each day so there's extra time for tying shoes or a second helping of cereal.

Learn people's names. Find out the name of the bus monitor, the driver, and a few of the other kids at the stop. Becoming familiar with all the players involved will help your kid feel comfortable with the ride and routine.

Be positive! Don't forget to project confidence, even if you're not feeling it 100-percent yourself yet. "Your child needs to see that being on the bus is normal," says Kennedy-Moore "and that he'll be able to manage just fine."