I still remember it vividly. Anxiety, apprehension and lots of tears. The first day of preschool was an emotional one…and that was just for me! The beginning of a new school year, especially the very first one, can fill both parents and kids with many different emotions. Having some strategies to help your child start the school year off right will not only make the transition easier, but also allow those first few days to be that much more enjoyable – and even exciting!
Having been a teacher for ten years, I’ve witnessed quite a few first days of school. While there are many ways to help your child adjust to this new experience, following these five suggestions will aid your new student in having a smoother entry on that first day.
1. Become familiar with the unfamiliar
Children (and adults) often become anxious when they don’t know what to expect. Ease your child’s mind by visiting his or her preschool, classroom or meeting the teacher in advance of the first day. During your visit take pictures of the classroom, personnel, the playgrounds, etc. and put the photos in an inexpensive photo album for your child to revisit leading up to the start of school.
2. Get something special
Who doesn’t remember the excitement of going back-to-school shopping? There’s something about new supplies that gets kids pumped up for the upcoming year. Go shopping and have your new student choose a special backpack, folder, lunchbox or other item they’ll look forward to using.
3. Develop a routine
Many schools offer some kind of orientation prior to the beginning of school. If your child’s school doesn’t offer an orientation, ask if it’s possible to shadow in the classroom prior to the start of school. Request a classroom schedule or talk to the teacher or a returning parent about daily routines. Once you are familiar with the routine, practice it at home. Getting in the habit of waking up, having breakfast, getting dressed and starting the day now will make this schedule that much easier when the big day arrives.
4. Talk about it
Asking your child questions, or posing possible scenarios, can help your child work through many of the anxieties he or she may have about school. Christina Miller, founder/director of A Great Start Preschool, reminds parents to be patient with their child during this time. “Many adults are nervous to start a new job, just like your kids are nervous to start the new school year,” she says. Questions such as “What part of the playground do you think will be your favorite?” help your child begin to talk about what may happen at school, work through any potential fears and begin to get more excited about the first day.
Attending preschool is a special time in your child’s life – celebrate it! Before the beginning of the year, have an outing, special dinner or event planned especially for your child. On the first day, remind your child that they are off on a grand adventure and assure them that you can’t wait to hear all about it when you pick them up. When your child sees how excited you are, he’ll be excited, too!
Megan Noel, veteran educator with ten years of teaching experience and a PhD in Early Childhood Education, enjoys researching childhood through the eyes of her two young children.