Admission season is over and after months of filling forms, standing in lines, attending interviews, your child is finally in school! If you thought that was the tough part, we have bad news for you. The worst is yet to come. Getting your child ready for first day of school is, well, how do we say this, nerve wracking! Most children have never been away from their parents before they start preschool and the very thought of them being among strangers for a few hours in the day is difficult for parents and children to understand.
We have all been there. When it was time for my son to start school, he suffered from stranger anxiety and was extremely shy around people. He was comfortable being around his parents and a select few others, but there was no way he was going to take to a new teacher and a class full of children on the first day. The thing to remember is, do not wait until the last week to prepare your child for school. Start early and the transition might just be manageable.
Here are a few things that worked for my son and me.Â
- Start talking about school early: After admission season there is usually a few weeksÂ before a child starts school. By this time your child should already know what school is and what it is about. Start talking to your child about the concept of school even before admissions begin. You could explain what it is, how many years they will have to go, how there are other children just like them, how much fun they can expect to have, play time, etc.
- Always in the positive:Â School should always have positive associations with it and never a word in the negative. School should be associated with learning. Do not make it out to be magical or scary. In the formative years if you associate the words positive, fun, play and enjoy with school yourÂ child will always enjoy going to school and more importantly learn.
- Talk to your child about what they are feeling: Engage them in a conversation and ask them what they think school will be like. is there anything they are scared of? What are they looking forward to? Don’t belittle their fears.
- Â If possible take them along to the school before their first day:Â Make a date of it. Talk about where they will be playing, where they might sit, what’s there in the classroom, all the fun they will have. This visit will familiarise the school to your child and it will stop being a scary place.
- Play school-school at home:Â Make a game of it. It is a great way to find out what your child thinks about school.
- Books and TV characters can help: Find books that talk about the first day of school or let them watch their favourite television character start their first day of school.
- Involve them in the preps: Take your child shopping for a school bag, for their uniform, for their lunch box. Let them pick out what they want.
- Routine works: Establish a good morning and bedtime ritual at least a week before school begins. Also make sure they have plenty of rest the night before their first day.
- Don’t compare: There will always be a few children for whom first day of school is relatively easy. They give their parents a quick goodbye hug and kiss and run inside, all excited! You will see these kids, please do not make the mistake of comparing your child to them. I speak from experienceÂ andÂ I can only say that you are building security bonds with your child and he knows what his parents mean to him. Don’t ever question your parenting style but instead focus on building those bonds. He may struggle a little more right now but if that bond is strong he will always be more secure.
Despite all these steps be aware that your child might still throw a fit and cry when you drop them off. Your child’s teacher will also give tips on how to handle drop off and how to reduce tears. Make sure you give your child a hug and kiss and tell them you will be right there to pick them up after school. Be firm and keep it short. Remember, your child won’t cry forever. Things do get better.
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