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Preparing Yourself and Your Child for the First Day of School

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/24/2006 | Education
If your first child is about to start school this year you may be wondering who has more anxiety about it - you or your child. The first day of school is significant in so many ways; your child is growing up, you are not personally planning their days and you know, even if your child does not, that it is only the beginning of a long stretch of firsts.

If you or your child are feeling anxious about the coming school year, what steps can you take to ease the transition and develop a healthy sense of expectation and challenge instead of fear or loss?

GIVE YOUR CHILD PRACTICE

If you have been the sole caregiver for your child it is quite possible that your child will have more anxiety about spending the day with people he or she doesn't know than a child who has been in a public day care environment before.

During the summer, before the big day, you may wish to enroll your child in preschool even if it is only one or two days per week and only two hours at a time. This gives both you and your child the chance to experience the separation without the overwhelming challenge of full time school.

If your child is not ready for a typical preschool environment, try group play activities such as a music class or book reading that involves following the teacher's instructions and spending time with a group of children while parents stay close by.

SPEAK POSITIVELY ABOUT SCHOOL

As hard as it may be, try to remain positive about the school experience. Even the boldest child may be put off going to school if they sense their parents apprehensions about it.

Talk to mothers of school aged children. You may find your concerns to be commonplace, but you'll quickly adapt to the routine and may even find time to enjoy it.

Find out if you can visit the school before the new school year starts. Some schools have days when children planning to attend the following year can come to a library reading one day a week as a means of getting accustomed to the school environment.

Taking your child 'school shopping' can also create enthusiasm. New school clothes, shoes and even a 'big kid' book bag are all ways you can foster excitement about going to school.

GET INVOLVED

It may be possible for the school to put you in touch with other parents who have children starting school at the same time as yours. Meeting other children before the school year can ease nerves and create a supportive bond.

If your school doesn't permit that information to be shared you may request that an invitation be given to parents who would like to meet, or post a notice on the bulletin board.

Once school has started stay involved with your child's progression. Discuss the activities of the day, read books brought home from school and volunteer to help in the classroom or on trips if you have the ability. All of these steps show your child that you are participating even though you are not there with them. Soon enough you'll find your little one getting the hang of it, maybe even before you do!