Bus stop blues

How to ease your child’s fears about taking the bus

It’s the first day of school and your child doesn’t know anyone at the bus stop. He’s scared and lonely.

Whether you’ve recently moved or it’s a transitional year (when your child moves up to a higher grade and new school), it can be a challenge to start over at a new bus stop.

Don’t worry; change can trigger anxiety in anyone, so your child’s apprehension is normal, no matter how old he is. There are things that you can do to help make this transition as smooth as possible. The most important thing you should do is to talk to your child way before the first day of school.

“The discussion between parents and students of what behavior to expect for the upcoming year should ideally begin during the summer,” said Lynn C. LeFevre, supervisor of Guidance & Counseling Services at the Arlington Central School District.


Talk It Out

“The bus environment means you’re in a tight space with students of different grades,” she said. There’s less supervision, and more personal space issues can evolve. Deciding ahead of time how your child will handle various scenarios will give them the tools they’ll need should issues arise.”

For example, you can ask your child where they sit on the bus and if there is a better place, depending on how your child’s behavior and personality. A shy child may be best-suited in the middle of the bus where she can interact with other children, instead of in the front. Keep in mind, however, that some buses separate students by grades, with younger students required to sit in the front of the bus and the oldest students in the back.

If he’s scared about problems, you can ask him how he would respond if a particular issue arises. And invariably, issues will arise – including teasing, bullying and fights. LeFevre suggests playing a game with your child where you offer various scenarios and your child offers possible ways she will handle them. Look for teachable moments and take advantage of the communication to play out possible conflicts.

You could ask, “How will you handle it if someone touches or moves your backpack? What would you do if I was not at the bus stop when you arrived home? What happens if you miss the bus?” She reminds you to remain calm and empathetic during this exercise and remember there are no wrong answers. The purpose is to teach your child ways to diplomatically handle any situation that may arise. This can build your child’s self-confidence and strengthen relationships with others.

More Tips!

  • Walk it out. Walk your child to the bus two or three days before school begins or drive the route. This alleviates the first-day bus jitters and is especially important for those who haven’t taken the bus before.
  • Talk it out. Ask your child how he is feeling. Is he scared? Excited? Don’t tell him ‘not to worry.’ Instead, find out what
    he’s worried about and try to come up with ways of alleviating
    his anxiety.
  • Work it out. Now that she has to sit still at school most of the day, give your child a way to work out all of her energy and have fun once she gets home! Go outside and play, jump in the pool if it’s still warm enough or throw a ball around.



Kathryn Lukaske is the mother of three living in Dutchess County. She is a regular contributor to several publications in the Hudson Valley.