Preparing for first Day of School

Children need stable routines. Most people function best
when they know what to expect next and the reasons for change.  Summer schedules are often more relaxed than schedules kept during a school year.

Changing routines and schedules to prepare for the rigors of getting children to school should be done gradually. Whether you are preparing a very young child for a first school experience or a child who is returning to school after summer break, parents should plan the transition and have many conversations with the child. School should be an exciting and positive experience for children. Preparing your child for that first day can make a difference in the rest of the school year. Preparation for a very young child, a kindergartener, for instance, can take a bit more time and attention to detail than a child who is returning to a familiar school with an idea of how the school operates and some knowledge of their new teacher. 

PREPARING FOR KINDERGARTEN

1) Practice routines and responsibilities

This is a very big first step for your child. Whether he/she has attended a preschool program or not the new school will provide many challenges.  During the summer, your child has had the opportunity to practice taking some responsibilities for routine and self-help skills.  Preparing routines and practicing self-help skills at home, such as hanging up sweaters or jackets, packing a backpack or school bag with essentials and laying out clothes the night before, will make that first morning run smoothly.  While establishing routines, do not forget to make time to allow your child to share their day with you whether right after school, before or during dinner. This supports the importance of the school experience and can prevent surprises later in the year.

2) Build positive expectations

Talk about the fun of going to school and read stories about going to kindergarten and making new friends.  Establish a good-bye routine either for a bus stop or at the school. This routine, if established like others, enables the child to feel secure in what will happen next. Read stories about school or kindergarten experiences.

3) Become familiar with teacher and school

At the end of the previous school year or during the summer there has probably been an opportunity to visit the school and meet kindergarten teachers. Many kindergarten teachers make time for individual students and parents to come visit the classroom. This provides an opportunity for the child to get acquainted with the teacher and the classroom. Additionally, you should walk around the school with your child to understand the layout of the school will be more comfortable about the first day of school.  Your child will want to know where the office, lunchroom and playground are in relation to their classroom. Depending on your child’s personality and independence a parent may want to make several visits to the school with the child. 

4) Get together with other classmates

Finding out who is to be in the class with your child and arranging play dates can be helpful. Sometimes children from your neighborhood or church are going to be in the same class.  This helps the comfort level for your child to see familiar faces. If the school allows, arrange a play date with other children on the playground at school.  This provides opportunities for children to become comfortable with the new equipment and for parents to talk about safety rules.

PREPARING AN OLDER CHILD

1)   Discuss the changes in routine

No one likes surprise changes to routines. Before beginning the transitions discuss the changes with the child. Allow questions to be asked and be prepared to answer all concerns.  Start several weeks in advance and be prepared for struggles with the changes. Some things may have to change gradually such as bedtimes, wake up and breakfast times.  Be patient.

2)   Practice responsibilities

Think about the routine tasks expected of the child. As part of the transition the child should begin taking on these responsibilities, such as laying out clothes the night before for the next day.

3)   Prepare tools and homework space

Children enjoy shopping for school supplies and school clothes.  Obtain a list of school supplies needed, include the child in checking supplies from last year and then a special trip to shop for other items. Have the child help is setting up homework space and develop a schedule for after school activities, free time and homework time.

4)   Written Reminders

Children can be forgetful.  Depending on the age and maturity of the child a checklist and written schedule can be very helpful in making the changes.  This also can prevent confrontations. Teaching a child to follow a checklist and schedule is a skill that will serve them well throughout life.

5)   Meet the teacher

Whether your child knows the teacher or not setting up a time to meet the teacher individually before school can be beneficial for everyone. Communication between home and school is important for a positive school year. Making the effort to have a conversation with the child and the teacher will help throughout the year. The child will see the teacher as a partner with the parent.

6)   Be positive

Ongoing positive conversations with the child about the fun and adventure of making new friends and learning new things will go a long wayin setting the stage for a positive experience. Children could be encouraged to set goals for themselves for the upcoming school year.  Write the goals down and keep them visible.

Remember that as a parent, your attitude and expectations will
be the standard from which your child will step into the new school year. Plan
and prepare for a positive experience.