Whether it’s your little one’s first time, or your child is a seasoned pro, the first day of school brings both excitement and apprehension. It’s not only kids who are slightly hyperventilating… parents are too. Why? Because school is a big deal!
Let’s start with Kindergarten. It doesn’t get much cuter than to see the excitement on a kindergartner’s face on the first day of school. Between experiencing a certain amount of separation anxiety and their first taste of independence, these little ones are spinning in multiple directions. That’s one reason mom or dad needs to keep their cool - you can cry in the car on the way home.
Some schools offer parents and children a “get to know your school” pre-school visit. If you and your child have the opportunity to visit the school in advance – take it!
The more familiar your child is with the school, the better at calming his or her anxieties on the first day. It’s also good for mom and dad to be acquainted with the teacher and the lay out of the school before your little one starts class.
On the big day, try and arrive a little early. Introduce yourself and your child to the teacher.
Help your little one get the lay of the land. Show him where the bathroom is and explain that they can go anytime they need to- but they will need to ask the teacher first. Also mention that sometimes accidents happen, and that teachers know this. Some schools will ask parents to bring an extra set of underwear and clothing to be kept in the child’s locker for such occasions.
Lunchtime is going to be an unfamiliar experience for these first-timers. You can ease their fears by taking them to the school cafeteria and letting them know that their teacher will tell them when it’s time for lunch. Explain how some children will bring their lunch from home, and some will get their lunch from the cafeteria line. Let them know that they will get to sit with the other children in their class.
Another tip to help your child understand how lunchtime will work is by taking her to a cafeteria-style restaurant before the school year begins. Explain how once they start school, lunchtime will be kind of like eating at a cafeteria. It can also be a good time to talk about healthy food choices.
If you’re going to pack a lunch for your child, begin a couple of weeks before school starts and practice the routine. You can get their input on what kinds of foods they might like and experiment with some healthy choices to see which ones they like the best.
You can also explain that there may be a naptime during the day. They don’t have to actually go to sleep, but they may get a chance to lie down on a cot and rest.
Let your child know that either you or another caregiver will pick them up from school at a certain time. If your child rides the bus, explain the process and how the adults will make sure they are kept safe.
Also, have a backup plan in case someone is going to be late or cannot pick your child up. Give the school a list of people you will allow to pick up your child when you can’t make it.
When it’s time to say goodbye, smile, wave and encourage your child to have a great day. The more relaxed you are, the less threatened your child will feel. Some children get very clingy and start crying – it’s a natural first-day-at-school- reaction to unfamiliar surroundings and circumstances. This may go on for a week or so. Teachers are pros at helping parents say good-bye. Enlist their help. Also know that some kids head off to class without even looking back. It's not a reflection on you- it's just that some personalities are always excited about a new adventure.
As the school year progresses there will be lots of conversations about school and all the changes it brings. Remember to stay positive and give easy to understand information that correlates to your child’s age.
Stay informed on how your child is doing at school. You may want to set up a meeting with his or her teacher on a regular basis.
Once you’ve said good-bye and you’re out of the school building -go ahead and fall apart. It’s natural for parents to have some of the same emotions that their child is having. Your little one is growing up and has just passed an important milestone in life. You have too.
Source: Ruth A. Peters, Ph.D.