Reducing your child’s anxiety on the first day of school

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.

Memory and Reading

Memory and concentration play a crucial role in children’s ability to successfully learn to read and spell. For this reason it is a great idea to play simple memory and concentration games, such as our colour concentration game, with kids from an early age to help them to develop their cognitive skills.

Memory and concentration are an important aspect of reading and spelling for a number of reasons.

Firstly, children need to learn the sounds created by their language and the letter names and sounds associated with different letters. They then need to store this knowledge in their long-term memory and be able to seamlessly retrieve it from their memory bank whenever they hear or see a word.

Secondly, when reading a word, children need to be able to hold each letter sound in their short-term memory as they sound out the word and then mentally blend the sounds together to decode the word. A similar cognitive process also happens when spelling.

The demands put on children’s memory and concentration skills when learning to read are huge! With repeated practice children gradually becomes more automatic when reading. Children’s ability to recall letter sounds and other information from their long-term memory becomes quicker and their ability to process this information in their short-term memory also improves.

Children with poor memory skills struggle to…

  • Decode words accurately
  • Learn from reading or 
  • Comprehend texts.

Children’s ability to decode words is often slow because they struggle to find the correct letter sounds in their long-term memory stores. They are also prone to making mistakes when reading and spelling because they struggle to hold letter sounds in their short-term memory when sounding out words and often forget one or more of the letters in a word. They may also use the wrong letter altogether because they have not yet made a permanent connection in their memory between each letter and the sound it makes.

In addition to this, children with poor memory skills also struggle with comprehension. One reason for this is that a child may be putting so much effort into decoding each individual word that they do not have the ability to decipher the meaning of the sentence that they are reading. Another reason is that they may not be able to remember what they have previously read because they cannot find it in their long-term memory. They may forget characters or events in a story or not be able to remember facts that they have read.

Children of today experience huge amounts of visual and auditory stimulation through the use of interactive media such as computer games and television. This overstimulation of the senses has made children less able to tune in and concentrate on something that is not demanding their attention, such as a book.

It is important to help children to develop effective concentration and memory skills to equip them with the tools needed to learn any skill, from reading a book, to solving an equation. 

Simple memory, riddle and problem solving games are a great way to help children to develop cognitive skills. In our letter names and sounds program we suggest one quick and easy game each day that builds essential cognitive skills.

Download our free and super simple colour concentration game to get started with some brain training! This game can be played with children from the time that they know the names of the colours. Colours are used for this game so that it can be played with young children long before they begin reading and spelling. It is also fun for older kids. Speed the game up and see if you have the cognitive skills to keep up!

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