Children take their cue from their parents. If parents are calm, reassuring, optimistic, and supportive, children will feel both confident and competent.
It is important when preparing our children for the first day of school to plan ahead. Children want to fit in – so parents must begin at the beginning, and first find out what inoculations are needed, what the dress code is so they can have all the required clothing, back-packs, lunch boxes, and equipments purchased in advance. No last minute shopping; it only adds to stress at an already anxious time for both parents and children alike.
Children will experience separation anxiety and so will parents. Therefore, it is so important for parents to take the lead and parent – not burdening their children with their own anxieties. Be honest with your children; talk to them about their fears; and listen with empathy. Children will tell you everything.
- Start now. Find out what vaccinations are needed, what the dress code is so your child can have all the required clothing, backpacks, lunch boxes, and school supplies purchased in advance. No last-minute shopping – it only adds to stress at an already anxious time for both parents and children alike.
- Next visit your child’s school at least one week in advance. Let your child get familiar with their classroom, the hallways, and important offices such as the nurse and principal.
- Practice and rehearse their classroom schedule. Don’t over program your children with activities. Allow them time for homework, and allow them free time to play and work off steam.
- Find out if there are any friends, relatives or neighbors in their class; if not, contact one or two of the parents in your child’s class and set up a play-day in advance of the first day of school. Knowing a child or buddy-system helps the transition to move more smoothly.
- Connect with teachers and staff ahead of time. Talk to the teacher, the nurse, the guidance counselor, and the principal. Show both your interest and your goodwill. Tell them of any concerns you have in regard to your child’s health, and apprise them of any learning problems in advance.
- Send your child to school with reminders of home. This can be a picture of you and your spouse or family picture – including siblings. This can be a touchstone that she can reach for when feeling uncomfortable or insecure.
- Start a bedtime schedule one week in advance of school so that your child gets at least ten hours of sleep at night. 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.
- Be reliable; be on time. It is important to take your child to school in the morning on time, and that means having a good breakfast, a good visit and no rushing. Be there at the end of school on time, so that they can count on you to show up when you say you will. This builds self-actualization in your child. If they can count on you, they will count on themselves and they will learn to trust others.
- Safety first is a very important part of the first day of school, including teaching your child the proper way in advance to deal with bullies by reporting them to either a teacher or counselor. You want your children to know traffic safety, as well as physical safety. That means to partner with your neighbors and the school to give age-appropriate and balanced information to your children about strangers and how to protect themselves from – yes – things even like abduction. Young children should know their name, how to spell it, their home telephone number and the number of a safe and responsible adult that is designated by their parents. Also do not label your children, their clothes, or their lunchboxes. That makes them easy targets for unsavory characters.
- Talk with your children about their feelings and invite them to participate in a conversation that gives them some sense of control. Never embarrass, discount or demean your children’s feelings. Ask them how they would like to be helped in this transition – what things parents can do and they can do as partners to make the first day of school a pleasant beginning. This is called the empathetic process, and if you invest children in the discussion, they are more likely to follow a smooth outcome and go happily to school. It is important to be honest with your children and tell them you will miss them too – and that they will like school because it will give them new and exciting experiences. Be empathetic, be compassionate and be firm. Nurture your children, meet their needs and be reliable. You can’t spoil your children with love.