The first day of school is just around the corner and parents and children everywhere are preparing anxiously for their big moment. This is especially the case for children who are going to school for the first time. The thought of school with "big kids," teachers and the vast unknown of "school" is overwhelming and downright frightening for the uninitiated. It's equally as stressful for the parents as well. Luckily there are tips and strategies that moms and dads can use to get through to make their child's first day and first week of learning a positive one.
Following are seven tips for preparing your child for the first day of school:
1) Talk the Talk: No one likes surprises and this is particularly the case with children. Talk to your child beforehand about what they can expect when going to school for the first time. Explain what the days ahead will look like, what activities your child can expect and the fun that they will have. Best to prepare them in advance so that there are no surprises.
2) Visit the School: Familiarity with where they will be going to school will make a huge difference to your child. Make sure to go to the schoolyard or playground with your son or daughter before the first day rolls around. Familiarize them with their surroundings so that they're comfortable with entering the school when the time comes.
3) Be Available: If you're at all able to be the one to take your child in for the first day of school, do so. It you can, stay for the first bell and see your son or daughter off to their new life. The same goes for pickup, if you're able to swing it. If possible, bet there to pick up your child right at bell when their school time is over to give them that sense of comfort. If you're not able to be there, perhaps a trusted close friend or family member could step in to ease the transition.
4) Assure Your Child: Children thrive on reassurances and this is particularly the case when starting something new. When it comes to attending school, small children will need your confirmation that everything will be okay, and that you will be there at the end of the day, if not to pick them up, then later on at home. Having this sense of security even when you're not there will make a huge difference in your child's first school experience.
5) Sweeten the Deal: Negotiations and out-and-out bribery isn't wholly a bad thing, especially in this instance. If it makes it easier, get something new for your child that will ease the transition into their new status as a school-bound kid. New clothes, a special backpack, a stuffed toy, or similar can go a long way.
6) Security System: A favorite blanket, toy, or picture from home can go a long way in making a little one feel secure and safe in their new environment. Make sure to pack a special item for your child in his or her knapsack before they set foot in their new classroom. Doing so may make the difference between an okay experience and a great one for your son or daughter.
7) Have a Plan: Let's face it, there are times where the "best laid plans" are just that -- plans, and nothing close to the reality of the situation. If your child is uncontrollably upset or stressed about the first day of school and is not coping well with the separation anxiety that they're feeling, make sure you have a contingency plan. Could you possibly stay with them for a short period of time in their new room to acclimatize them before leaving? Perhaps some extra time with your child may be required before they're left in their new environment. Either way, be prepared for a scenario that may require you to abandon your previous plans of a smooth first day at school. It happens to the best of us and we all get through these difficult times.