Have you seen parents almost dragging their kids to school on their first day? Many children resort to crying and outbursts that rival a battlefield. Yes, the first day of school can be a harrowing experience for children, but it does not have to be like this. And yes, threatening them just to make them go to school is counterproductive especially when anxiety kicks in. Here are some essential and practical parenting tips to get your child ready for the school year.
Tip 1: Make Your Child Go to Bed Earlier
A week before classes start, make sure you adjust your child’s sleeping schedule. If you child’s classes are in the morning, then you have to make them go to bed earlier. Many if not all children cannot make the transition from waking at 9:00 am to 7:00 am in just one go. So make sure they get the habit of sleeping earlier and waking up earlier at least a week before the first day of classes.
- You can start even earlier than one week before classes slowly working up to the right time to sleep and waking up.
- You may need to do more active play before going to bed so they will feel a little tired than usual – it will help them sleep earlier
- Do the sleeping routines earlier – doing the nightly routines earlier each day.
- You can use an alarm clock with a fun alarm that your child will enjoy waking up to
- Routines will change but this is in preparation for the coming school year
Tip 2: Visit The School With Your Child
Many children experience anxiety when they go to a new place. It would be a good idea to visit the school with your child and show him/her the different places or areas of the school. Make them more familiar and comfortable with the new environment and perhaps this will loosen their predator-like grip during the first day of school.
- Take them with you when you talk to the teacher about the school\s curriculum
- Have your child play in the school. – of course ask permission first
- Drive by the school several times with your child and tell your child that they will go to school here.
- Encourage your child to play with other children at the school
- Introduce your child to the teacher and allow some time for them to interact
Tip 3: Let Them Wear The Uniform For Fun
If your child will be wearing a uniform to school, playing dress up with it is a great way to make them comfortable with the coming school year. Many parents will not allow their children to wear the uniform until it is the first day of classes for fear of getting the uniform dirty or destroyed. However, playing dress up provides your child with the mental and psychological transition from staying at home to going to school. After all, you can wash the uniform or mend it before the classes start. Or better yet, buy several sets of uniform.
- Pretend to have classes at home with you as the teacher – let your child call you by their teacher’s name
- Encourage your child to express how she feels about the coming school year
- Let your child put on the uniform themselves – although help them out when they get tangled
- Have a photo shoot and let your child model the new uniform
Tip 4: Have Play Dates With Other Kids
Apart from the new school, dealing with new faces can be scary for children. As such, it would be a great practice to have play dates with new faces and kids. You can invite your child’s cousins, children of your friends or office mates. By having your child experience new interactions, they can get used to unfamiliar kids.
- Ask the school if they have a play date for the new classmates so they can get to know them prior to the first day of school.
- During the play time of the children, you can encourage them to play teacher and students
- Provide the children with activities similar to that of the school – coloring activities, painting sessions, cutting and pasting. Also, have routines like circle time, activity time and recess time.
Tip 5: Buy And Label Your Child's School Items
Part of the school rush is buying the stuff for your child from bags to shoes down to the pencils she/he will use. Of course it will be faster if you do it on your own however, let your child pick out and help buy some items These stuff may include bags, pencil case and pencils, crayons and other items that your child will be using often.
- Set a special buying time with your child after you’ve purchased most of what your child needs.
- Let them pick out the items that they like – if they are old enough you can even tell them the budget for each item
- Let your child help label their school stuff. This will help give them a sense of accountability and responsibility for their school items.
Tip 6: Have A First-Day-Of-School Countdown With Your Child
You can have a countdown to the first day of school. Increase their excitement by making them aware of the days before the first day of classes. When the child knows what to expect especially when the first day of classes will be helps reduce the anxiety. Building up the first day of school as fun and exciting day helps make it easier for your child to go to school.
- Let the child cross out the days in the calendar – a better idea is to use fun stickers
- Build up the first day as a special and fun event – tell stories about fun activities, exciting areas at school etc.
Tip 7: Continuously Reassure Your Child About The First Day Of Classes
Separation from parents is a high-anxiety experience for children. This is why many schools allow the parents to be with the children during the first few days. But you do not have to wait for the first day of classes to do this. It is a good idea to allow your child some time away from you. Reassuring them that you will be there when it is going home time is important.
- Slowly build up the time you are away from your child when they are engaged in play or other activities – of course an adult should be present.
- Hide and seek games reinforces the idea that you will be there even if they do not see you
- Verbally reassure that you will be there
- Give your child a family picture that she can look at when she is feeling sad or anxious when you are away – some kids have their blankets, pillow or stuffed toy
- Have a special “secret” kiss or handshake before you leave them and do the same when you go back to fetch them
- Never compare your child with others who are having an easier time adjusting
Learning how to prepare your child for the first day of school will help him/her have a fun and exciting time. Moreover, this will help reinforce her idea that school is a place that is fun.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.