If your child is nervous about riding the school bus,...

If your child is nervous about riding the school bus, try zeroing in on what it is they're anxious about -- an unfamiliar route? Loneliness? Credit: AP / Jim Michaud

Q: I have twins girls starting middle school. Our elementary school didn’t provide transportation, so they will be taking a school bus for the first time and are nervous. They have asked me to drive them the first day. One of my daughters suffered from anxiety a few years ago, and I am fearful if she doesn’t take the bus the first day, the next day will turn into an excuse and so on. But now a lot of their friends’ parents have agreed to drive their kids the first day. Any advice?

A: “It’s true that it’s going to be hard to break the cycle once you begin it,” agrees Laurie Zelinger, a psychologist in private practice in Cedarhurst specializing in children’s and school issues and a former elementary school psychologist in the Oceanside district.

Zelinger suggested trying this:

Zero in on what they are nervous about. Is it that the bus might get them to school late? The driver might get lost? They’ll have to sit alone?

Ask what they need to feel comfortable. If they have cellphones, you could stay on the phone with them the whole ride, even if it’s just chatting about what you’ll be having for dinner. If that’s not allowed, suggest they listen to music or a relaxation tape using headphones. Or make a recording of yourself talking to them.

Consider driving to the school while they’re on the bus and waiting there, so they know they’ll see you when they get off.

“If only one child is especially anxious, I would see how her sister could help calm her down,” Zelinger says.

Alternatively, ask one of their friends’ parents who is driving the first day to take your daughters along. “They would still be with other children, and they wouldn’t be dependent upon their mom,” Zelinger says.