Most children are anxious and excited on the first day of school each year. You can help make the day easier for your youngster by keeping the following guidelines in mind:
- Point out the positive aspects of starting school: It will be fun. She will see old friends. She will meet new friends. Refresh her memory about previous years, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.
- Remind your child that she is not the only student who is a bit uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are anxious and will be making an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
- Review all your child's accomplishments from last year, and talk about the kinds of interesting things she will learn in the months ahead.
- Buy her something (perhaps a pen or pencil) that will remind her you are thinking of her while she is at school, or put a note in her lunch-box.
- Reassure your child that if any problems arise at school, you will help resolve them. (If problems do occur, get involved as soon as possible.)
- Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your youngster can walk to school or ride with on the bus. If your child is older, have her offer to walk to school or wait at the bus stop with a new or younger child.
- If your child is not going to ride a school bus and you feel it is appropriate, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up the first day.
- Encourage her to look for new students in her classroom or in the playground, invite them to join the group for a game, and ask them about their interests.
- After school, show your child some special attention and affection. Give her a hug and ask what happened at school. Did she have fun? Did she make any new friends? Does she need any additional school supplies (notebooks, rulers, erasers) that you can shop for together?
In addition to the suggestions listed above, your child may need some extra support if she is starting a new school. Here are some suggestions to make the transition easier.
- Talk with your child about her feelings, both her excitement and her concerns, about the new school.
- Visit the school with your child in advance of the first day. Teachers and staff are usually at school a few days before the children start. Peek into your child's classroom, and if possible, meet the teacher and principal. You might be able to address some of your child's concerns at that time. She may have no questions until she actually sees the building and can visualize what it will be like. (When you formally register your child in the new school, bring her immunization record and birth certificate; usually school records can be sent directly from school to school once you sign a "release of information" form.)
- Try to have your child meet a classmate before the first day so they can get acquainted and play together, and so your child will have a friendly face to look for when school begins.
- Do not build up unrealistic expectations about how wonderful the new school will be, but convey a general sense of optimism about how things will go for your child at the new school. Remind her that teachers and other students will be making an extra effort to make her feel welcome.
- If your child sees another student or a group engaged in an activity she is interested in, encourage her to ask if she can participate.
- As soon as you can, find out what activities are available for your child in addition to those that occur during school itself. Is there a back-to-school picnic or party planned? Can she join a soccer team? (For community sports programs, sign-ups often begin weeks or even months before the start of the season.)
During the first few weeks at a new school, your child's teacher will probably conduct some informal assessments. You should be able to get some idea of how your child's academic and social adjustments are going at that time.