Any parent knows how daunting a child’s first day at school or daycare can be! The first day in the care of people who are, to your kid, strangers, can be an uncomfortable and difficult thing for many kids. But if you think your kid is going to have a rough time on their first days of school, you’re in luck- there are a number of things you as a parent can do to make their first days on their own less stressful and more fun!
As teachers and educators ourselves, fussy, confused or upset kids is something we’re used to seeing — so here are our 5 favorite hacks to helping your kid overcome their fear or discomfort and getting them ready to start enjoying school.
The car ride to school may be easy, but the actual parting may just be the hardest part for your kid! Watching their mom or dad drive away can take an emotional toll on your kid, and make them feel alone or isolated until they gradually become familiar with their teachers and classmates. Instead of just dropping them off by the door and giving a quick wave, a thoughtful and sincere goodbye may help your child adapt to separation more easily.
One trick is to establish a little ritual every time you drop your kid off. Consider doing something like this: you and your kid get out of the car, you hug your child for as long as they need, then get down on their level and promise that you’ll be back for them soon. It doesn’t have to be super elaborate, just enough to ensure that your kid knows where you’re going, and that you’ll be back to take them home before they know it! The fact you’ll be back might seem obvious to us as adults, but to children, hearing that out loud every day can potentially do them a lot of good.
Make Pickups Something to Look Forward To
School or daycare can be a scary and stressful place at first, especially before your kid is acquainted with their teachers and fellow students. In these early stages, it’s possible that the one thing on their mind is going home. And while they may well feel relieved to be getting in the car after a day of school, it’s important that you praise them and make them feel proud of their new strides! For instance, ask them about their day, what games they played with their friends, or one cool/interesting thing they learned about. When they answer, showing interest in what they’re interested in and being visibly proud/happy with them will encourage them — and may make them more eager to brave their new school routine!
Praise goes a long way too. If they’re not in the mood to talk about their day, even a simple “I’m proud of your for being brave today,” can help lift their spirits. The important thing is to just be supportive!
For children, routine is the cornerstone of a secure life. Building strong, healthy routines on school days can be a powerful tool for helping your child get used to their new life as a student. From your goodbye ritual to your pickup times to their after-school snack, children often feel safer and overall better when they can count on ‘X’ thing happening at ‘Y’ time every day. After all, Early Learning Centers like The Big Red Barn employ routines for much the same reason! Not only does it keep the classroom organized, but set sequences of events promote healthy function in young kids.
The transition from at-home life to school life is one of childhood’s biggest transitions. Not all kids handle this transition in the same way— some realize their inner social butterfly and adapt quickly to lessons and friend-making, while others may be more reserved or scared and not take to the school environment right away. No matter what kind of school-goer your kid turns out to be, they’re likely to face challenges in one form or another — and it’s really important you use patience with them! Adapting to school may take just days, or as long as a few months, but regardless, demonstrating patience will make it easier on you and your kid.
Emphasize That It’s Okay to be Scared
Starting school is scary, there’s no doubt about it! If your kid is showing some nervousness about the prospect of going back to school, or ahead of their first day of school, level with them and promise them that it’s okay to be scared. Remind them that this fear or discomfort is something everyone — even you! — experiences at some point, and that includes their classmates. Feeling validated like this can help make your kid feel more comfortable in school, sooner.