Preparing Your Child for the First Day of School

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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It seems like school was just dismissed for the summer, yet here we are facing another year of back to school. For some kids, this will be the very first time they attend school. Be aware that your attitude towards them starting school has a huge impact on your child. If you are weepy or upset, it will make the transition much harder for them. If you are cheerful and positive about the experience, it will make their first day of school much easier.

If you have always been home with your child, leave him in the care of a responsible adult for several hours each day for at least two weeks prior to the beginning of the school year. This will help him learn to cope without you being present all day and will lessen his anxiety on the first day of school.

Try to arrange for your child to meet his teacher prior to the first day of school. Though he won't get to know her well, he will at least recognize her and know that she will be the one who is caring for him throughout the day.

Talk to your child about school. Ask him about his expectations and what he thinks he will like about this new experience.

Explain to your child that many other children will also be attending school for the first time. Encourage him to try and make new friends on the first day of school.

If a relative or neighbor's child will be starting school the same day as your child, make arrangements for them to go to school together or meet once they arrive. A familiar face will ease the transition.

Look for books about the first day of school. Read to him and allow him to ask questions. Listen carefully and answer all of his questions truthfully.

Explain to your child that it's okay to feel nervous or frightened. Explain that this is a natural occurrence and that all the other children starting school with him will feel the same way.

A week or two before school starts, take your child to his favorite store and shop for back to school clothes and supplies. Allow him to pick out some outfits he likes, as well as some school supplies. New clothes, crayons and paint for the first day of school will help him get motivated. Also buy a few supplies for creative fun at home and allow him to practice drawing, coloring and painting.

Play school with your child. Pretend you are the teacher and that he is himself. If possible, get some other kids his age to join you. This will give him an idea of what will be expected of him.

The evening before school starts, ask your child to pick out the outfit he'd like to wear for the first day of school. Also ask him to help you make his lunch. Allow him to do these tasks by himself, if possible. This will give him the feeling of being independent.

Spend time with your child before bed. Read a story together or play a board game. Ask your child to voice any concerns he has about the first day of school. Listen carefully and ease his anxiety while being truthful.

Don't be surprised if your child has trouble falling off to sleep or if he is restless and awakens several times during the night. Be patient and reassuring. Let your child know that you are there for him.

In the morning, help your child dress and prepare for school. Sit with him to eat breakfast and talk about the new and exciting things that he'll experience in his class.

Drive or walk your child to school on the first day, if possible. Talk to your child's teacher prior to the first day of school and find out if she prefers you to stay around for a while or if she wishes you to leave immediately. Some children have an easier transition if parents leave right away. Others find it easier if their parent sits quietly at the back of the room.

Let your child know where you will be while he is at school. This will give him a better sense of security.

Take your child to school and to his classroom the first week of school, if possible. This will give him time to adjust to the new routine.

If possible, pick your child up when he is dismissed from the first day of school. He'll be excited to tell you all about his day and his new experiences. Admire any coloring or other work that he brings home. Most teachers try to help children finish a simple task to take home to their parents on the first day of school.

If your child has trouble adjusting to his new school routine, have patience. He will settle in before you know it and soon he'll look forward to learning and enjoying time with his classmates.

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