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Back to school: Which do you worry about more, social life or academics?

Aug. 8, 2011 at 9:28 AM ET

As you shop for cool backpacks and eco-friendly lunch bags for the new school year, does part of you start to agonize about what really happens once your child walks through the big school doors?

And which do you worry about more: academics or social life? With academics you can get into a panic thinking since your kid isn’t doing well in math, she won’t get into college, or find a good job. But if your child lacks friends, you may worry that she’ll be teased and forever pegged as an outcast. 

With schoolwork you can hire a tutor, or do extra work at home to help your child. But if she lacks friends, you can’t tag along and be her buddy, or make other kids like her – and that can break your heart.

In a recent poll, iVillage.com found that 64 percent of moms worry about their child making friends at school. When asked if their kid has a hard time making friends, 71 percent said yes.

Experts shared their advice on how to help kids make friends:

-Family psychotherapist Fran Walfish, author of The Self-Aware Parent, suggests modeling friendly behavior. How you relate to your kids is how they’ll relate with their peers, she says.

-Don’t be afraid to tap into the teacher’s knowledge. Teachers often know which kids need help with friends, says Julia Simens, author of “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child.” Teachers can help kids connect socially.

-Help your child learn to break the ice by practicing break-the-ice one-liners, such as, “I like your boots,” or “I like the colors you picked. Can I help you paint?”

Which do you worry about more heading into the school year, academics or the social scene? What have you done to help your child get ready for school, whether it's working on reading or practicing social skills?  Or are you pretty relaxed about the new school year?

Julie Weingarden Dubin is a Michigan-based freelance journalist and author with three rocking kids, a loving husband and a trashed minivan. She covers health, psychology, parenting, relationships and pop culture.

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