The first day of school is an exciting and happy time. However, many children and parents experience anxiety on the lead up to the big day and on the morning itself.
Whether it’s the very first day of school, or the first day at a new school, here are 10 tips for making children’s first day at school, a happy, memorable and anxiety free experience.
1. Do a Dry Run
A few days before the first day of school, take a drive or a walk to school. Have a look around with your child and locate the classroom. Teachers are usually at school during the week before school starts, so you may even be able to introduce yourself and your child to the teacher.
2. Stock Up
Before the first day, take the time to make sure that you have everything on your child’s booklist. On the first day of school your child may need pencils, books, an art shirt or even sports clothes. Making sure that your child arrives with their full booklist will avoid any anxiety resulting from not having everything they need.
3. Label Everything
Pencils, hats and everything else that chidren takes to school can easily be misplaced which causes upset. Labeling belongings including hats, bags and uniforms will help to identify any belongings that get mixed up or misplaced.
4. Be Prepared
The night before schoo beginsl, have everything, including clothes, bags, recess and lunch, packed up and laid out ready for the morning. You could even plan exactly what you are going to make for breakfast. Having everything prepared the night before means that you can have a relaxing, hassle-free morning before leaving for school.
5. Make it a Celebration
Make the morning of the first day of school a joyous time. Enjoy a special breakfast, take a special photo and plan a celebratory afternoon tea or dinner where your child can tell loved ones all about their first day. Keep it positive! If your child feels your anxiety or concern they will worry too.
6. Be Clear
Explain exactly what is going to happen on the first day. Tell children what time you will drop them off and what time you will pick them up. Explain how the school day works including playing with other children, having a recess break and a lunch break and learning some new things. Knowing what the schedule will be helps to remove fear of the unknown.
7. Don’t Get Upset
As emotional as this day can be for parents it is important that your child does not see you get upset, as this will only cause them distress. Enlist another family member as a distraction and a cheerleader if you feel that you are going to find it difficult to control your emotions. It is important to add excitement and happiness to the morning, not apprehension or dread.
8. Leave Quickly
This sounds difficult but it is the best thing to do. No matter how upbeat and prepared you have been most children are likely to feel some anxiety. The longer you hang around, the more difficult it will be when you do leave. Take your child to their classroom, get them settled in 5 minutes or less, wish them well for the day and remind them that you will be back soon and then leave with a smile.
P.S. Don’t stand outside the window peeping in and thinking they can’t see you. They nearly always do.
9. Save Introductions
If you have not met with your child’s teacher before the first day of school you will be eager to do so. On the first morning your child’s teacher will be extremely busy meeting the children and organizing name tags, seats and belongings, as well as managing children’s and parents anxiety. Introduce yourself briefly and let the teacher know that you will arrange a time to speak to them later to introduce yourself properly and discuss anything that you feel you need to. If there is something important that you need to tell the teacher, such as who will be collecting your child, write it in a note and give to them when you briefly introduce yourself. This helps to leave the teacher free to tend to the children’s needs on their first morning and also ensures that the teacher has all of the information that they need for the first day.
10. Don’t Worry
If your child does get a little emotional try not to worry. After reassuring your child that you will be back soon, leave. This sounds difficult but as a teacher I can honestly tell you that I have never seen tears last for longer than 5 or 10 minutes. Within no time, a child that was sobbing for their parents will be happily engaged in an activity with other children and smiling. If for any reason your child does not settle down within 10 minutes or so, the school will most likely call you. If you are worried you can visit the school office before you leave and ask them to give you a call in 10 minutes to let you know if your child has settled. The teachers and administration staff at your child’s school are there because they care about children’s well-being. They wouldn’t want your child to be distressed either, so try to relax!
By working towards creating an anxiety free first day you will help your child and yourself to adjust to school life more easily. At the end of the day you will be greeted by the smiling face of your little one, excited to tell you about what they have done on their first day! Celebrate this milestone and congratulate them on how clever they are to now be going to school. Congratulate yourself as well for preparing your child to embark on their next, exciting learning adventure.