The summer is nearly over and for most children, next week marks the start of the new school year. The first few days of school can be difficult for children of all ages. Children entering school for the first time are often anxious, but even children who have already attended school can be upset or concerned about going back.
A little preparation before the big day can go a long way in easing your child’s transition back to school, even if last minute. Children want to fit in, so parents must begin at the beginning, and first double check uniform and stationery lists. If there is a need for last-minute shopping, keep calm and don’t let it add any stress at an already anxious time for both parents and children alike.
Talk with your children about their feelings and fears, by inviting them to participate in a conversation it will give them some sense of control. Children will experience separation anxiety and so will parents. It is important to be honest with your children and tell them you will miss them too however, try not to burden them with your anxieties. Let your child know that all kids are nervous about the first day of school. Be empathetic, be compassionate but be firm.
Point out the positive aspects of starting school. It will be fun and they can make new friends or see old friends. Refresh their memory about previous years when they may have returned home after the first day of school with high spirits because they had a good time.
Do a ‘dry run’ of the new morning routine with your child, whether it's walking to the bus stop or driving to the new school to see how much time it will take. Remember, it almost always takes more time than you think, especially when the unexpected happens.
Let your child know what their day will be like. Tell him what time school begins and ends each day. Talk through what will happen at lunch time. For happier mornings when school starts, develop a special morning routine and stick with it. When children can predict what's coming next, they feel competent and are much more likely to cooperate. For younger children, a relaxing routine might start off with some snuggle time and independent play, followed by a nutritious breakfast. For older children, it might include time to collect homework and plan for afternoon activities.
As an adult, we know how cranky we get when we are tired, and so do our children. Remember that they don’t have our coping skills so ensure they go to bed as early as possible for at least the first few weeks.
A ‘safety first’ attitude is a very important part of preparing for the first day of school. You want your children to know traffic safety as well as physical safety. Young children should know their name, how to spell it, their telephone number and the number of a safe and responsible adult that is designated by their parents. Teach your child the proper way in advance to deal with bullies by reporting them to either a teacher or an appropriate adult.
Reassure your child that if any problems arise at school, you will be there to help resolve them.
Have a backup or emergency plan. Make sure you and your child know the routine for before and after school care ahead of the first day of school. Have a back-up plan for what to do in case you are late. Ensure your emergency pick-up people know where the new school and after-school program is located and what the pick-up routine is there. It is better to prepare ahead of time than encounter an emergency. Remember children take their cue from their parents. If parents are calm, reassuring, optimistic and supportive, children will feel both confident and competent, and it never hurts to leave a note in your child's lunchbox that will remind them you're thinking of them.