By the time kids reach school age, chances are they have experience with daycare, preschool, or being watched—at least part time—by people other than their parents. Even so, heading off to school, or to a new school, can be an intimidating and stressful experience, no matter what the age. Parents set the stage for kids and can make the transition to school easier. Just take it from the experts; school counselors agree: It all starts with you.
Communication is Key
Excitement is important, but so too is keeping your child informed and addressing her concerns, rather than brushing them off. According to Timothy Granet, a deacon in the Catholic Church and a counselor at Alleman High School in Rock Island, Illinois, “Frequent but controlled communication lets everyone know you are still interested and keeps everyone informed. Children need to know their parents are interested in them and in what they are doing and that they are available to them when they need reassurance or help.”
Communication continues at the school, too, and it’ll help your child to know she has people she can talk to at her new school. Talk to your child about the resources she’ll have, as well as how to utilize them. Lisa Muhs, a school counselor at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, says, “The kids should know that it is okay to reach out and trust the teacher.”
Even before the school year starts, talk about what to expect at school, and get your child familiar with his new school by doing the following:
- Drive or walk by the school. This way they’ll know where it’s located in relation to home.
- Meet school staff. This includes teachers, counselors, and the principal, before school starts.
- Get the lay of the land. When meeting teachers and school staff, check out the classroom. Show your child where the restroom, gym, lunchroom, and nurse’s office are located.
Build a Routine
As summer winds down, start creating a routine to get out the door in the morning. The week prior to the start of school, start getting up earlier, and practice getting ready to get out the door ready for the day. You can then go do a fun, warm-weather activity to enjoy the remaining days of summer! Even doing something as simple as this will help kids make the transition to early morning departures and a new routine.
First Day of Kindergarten or New School
It’s time for big kid school! Show your excitement—even if you’re feeling down that your little one is growing up—and your child will reflect that. “Parents should reinforce the fact that all of this means the the child is growing and will soon be like the big kids the children often look up to,” says Granet.
If your child is still expressing nerves or jitters, recognize them and talk about them. According to Muhs, “Their concerns are real and giving them concrete solutions to their problems and dispelling their fears will help them feel more confident and comfortable.”
Often, part of the fear associated with a new school is not knowing anyone. Rather than encouraging your child to talk to everyone, encourage him to meet just one person. “Knowing one person connected at the school will help the student meet many more people,” Muhs says. “Telling a kid to meet one new person is a lot less intimidating than telling them to meet several.”
Nerves are Normal
“I think sometimes parents are more nervous than the kids and unknowingly, outwardly show it,” says Muhs. “Kids are perceptive and will feed off of their parents’ nerves. I think it’s important that parents express excitement and eagerness towards school and education. Kids will follow that excitement and feel confident in their first day endeavors.”
Be honest with your kids, too, and talk to them about how what they’re feeling is completely normal. Were you nervous too about starting school? “Share your experiences of first day jitters and emphasize that everything turned out fine and that you really didn’t need to worry because the teacher was so helpful,” says Granet. “You know kids love hearing stories about their parents and this is very reassuring.”
The first day may be the toughest, but when you keep the lines of communication open and clear, your kids will come home, ready to tell you about their great first day.
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not blogging about food, she’s working part-time at a culinary vacation company, The International Kitchen, based in the Windy City, as well as repping Younique cosmetics and skincare products. Some of her writing can be found at Examiner.com.