Back to School Preparing your Child for first Grade

Starting school after a long, lazy summer is stressful enough without the added angst of a family move. As a military family, we have moved several times and have gone through long stretches of “daddy-less” times. By this time, one would think that moving would be routine by now. But when we moved cross-country this summer, we found out that it’s far from routine, especially for the kids.

With the start of school coming up, we figured that aside from the first day excitement, it would be a piece of cake because our older boy is going into third grade and the younger boy is starting first grade. They’ve already been through the first day jitters and anxiety of not knowing what is expected of them. But with everything being so foreign and different, they were more than a little nervous. Add in the fact that some of these kids have been together for several years and we realized that we had a stomach churning event for our little ones.

Here’s what we did to help them get accustomed to their new surroundings. Fortunately, we live within walking distance of the school and could point it out at various times. We took a tour of the school to see how it was laid out and where each grade was housed. We also spent time at the playground after hours so that they could get used to being at school in a playful, non-threatening way.

There was a long list of school supplies to buy and so I made the boys a part of the scavenger hunt. Normally, I wouldn’t take them with me, but I wanted them to be able to pick out their favorite things. I chose to have them use their backpacks and lunch boxes from last year so that at least those things would be constant from their old school.

The test of my big plan was the first day of school. My third grader was off and running, so excited to meet his teacher and some new friends. My first grader was not so sure about it. Tears streamed down his face while he begged me not to leave him. He and I walked to his classroom and went inside. Instantly, he saw kids that were his same size and that were interested in the same things that he was. It had been a long time since he had been able to be with kids his own size. During the move, we were all pretty isolated and found companionship in each other. Opening the doors to new people was an exciting, but scary thought. He was intimidated and clingy at first, but with some coaxing from the teacher and my quick exit, he found his way.

Now, a week later, he still wants me to come inside to say good-bye, but I can tell that he is getting more independent and more comfortable with his surroundings. He has found some friends to play with and has realized that he’s not the only new kid in school. It’s great to see his face light up when he talks about how he plays Star Wars and Power Rangers with his new buddies. I know it won’t be the easiest for him, but he’s off to a great start.