Whether your children look to the first day of school with anticipation or trepidation, there are things a parent can do to make sure that first day is a good one for all.
1. Talk about it with anticipation. Your child will pick up on it if you have fears and worries about the first day of school. Your excitement can rub off on the more timid child and help him or her with anxiety about the first day.
2. Let your child(ren) talk about it. Children often process their fears and worries by talking about it. Allow them to share their feelings with you. Discuss it in a positive light, while not denigrating their fears. Let them know that everyone fears doing something new and share how you have faced and resolved some of those issues in your own life.
3. Give your child(ren) choices. Take them with you to pick out everything from school supplies to clothes and allow them to have a say. You may have to present them with only two choices, but try to allow them to own the process and the excitement of school shopping. Try to go when you are not tired or irritated and make it a fun outing.
4. Once items for school are bought, let them show them off. Kids get so excited when they have something new. While you can’t allow them to use some of the items yet, they can show them to the other parent, siblings or even grandparents. This also gives them an opportunity to talk about going to school with more people. (See 2.)
5. Determine a go to school and coming home from school routine. Children can have some say in this, but make a list of the things they will do each day before school and after school. This gives them something to do that they can check off each day. It will give them ownership of the process as well as relieving the possible chaos of a first day of school.
6. Meet the teacher. Take your child to the school before school begins to meet the teacher and find his or her way to the classroom. If possible, find out some of the children who will be in your child’s class. Meeting some of them is good if possible. Having someone the child already knows to face that first day with will relieve a lot of anxiety.
7. Make sure everything is ready the night before. Allow your child to pick out (from two outfits you have chosen) what they will wear the next day and lay it out for them. Have a place where the full backpack goes (by the front door possibly) so that the child and you know where it is. Go through it with the child the night before and check to make sure he or she has everything needed. Try to make sure this is a fun evening as well. A ‘first day of school’ book read to him or her at bedtime would be a nice touch. “First Day Jitters,” written and illustrated by Judith DuFour Love is a good one to try, and other offerings can be found at Amazon.com.
8. Make the first day of school a special occasion. Ask your child what he or she would like to have for breakfast, and plan to have a special meal for them. You can also make a game out of their first day as they do each of the scheduled events for the day. You may want to make a list, such as make my bed, brush my teeth, etc., and allow them to check off or add a star when they have completed the tasks.
The first day of school can be exciting, but it can also be scary. You, the parent or guardian of the child can make it an amazing, memorable event with just a little care and preparation. Kids aren’t the only ones to have mixed feelings about that first day of school, so making their day good will make yours a good one as well.