Emotions for kids on the first day of school can really span a wide range of highs and lows.
On one hand, your kids will likely be excited to see their friends and meet their new teacher, and on the other, there are tons of questions about how the day will go that could spark the nerves.
This makes sense—just think about your first day at a new job—but a few small actions on your part can help make your child's first day of school feel a little less stressful. This is especially important if they're coming off a school year that was fully remote—getting back into "classroom" mode (or getting acquainted with a classroom for the first time) will take a bit more effort and preparedness.
From rehearsing how to make friends to walking the campus, we listed seven ideas to help your child start the school year off on a good note.
What are some of the ways you help your kids overcome their fears on the first day of school? Let us know in the comments below!
Read About School
Feeling comfortable in the classroom can start by helping your kids relate to some iconic literary characters who are facing the same feelings. Books like "Mrs. Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten" mask the anxiousness associated with starting school with rhyming, letter recognition and brightly illustrated pictures that make the whole experience much more relatable. If your little one isn't in kindergarten, check out this roundup of 20 back-to-school books to calm first day jitters.
Discuss Making New Friends
While many of your kids' classmates will be familiar faces from previous years, there are always new potential friends in their next grade level. School is much more enjoyable (and more engaging/productive) with friends, but making new friends isn't always easy—especially for older kids. If they're having trouble or are nervous, talk about ways to make friends. This can be as simple as introducing themselves, smiling, complimenting their outfit or haircut, etc. They may resist, but rehearsing these small conversations at home can help them feel more comfortable when they give it a shot at school.
Walk the Campus
For some students around the country, it's been a while since they've been at school due to the pandemic and distance learning. Not knowing where to find their classroom, the route to get to the bathroom or how to navigate the cafeteria lunch line can add to your kids' stress on the first day of school. If possible, walk the campus the weekend before school, and point out all the important landmarks and buildings to keep them oriented. If your child's campus isn't open, park in the parking lot and look through the fence to give them a bit more comfort and familiarity.
This might be oversimplified, but thinking school is fun is a big part of what actually makes school fun (and makes it easier to get little ones out the door and off to school on time each day). Associating school with fun really can start at home. Drumming up excitement about each school day and all the things they'll do there really helps. Talk about how awesome art projects will be, talk about recess and running around on the playground with their friends and talk about the cool pencils and school supplies they'll get to use, the fun books they'll get to read, the messy science projects they'll get to do. Tell them stories of your fond memories of school!
Make Something for Their New Teacher
Arts and crafts aren't just a good way to spend time as a family, they can be a great way to sort through what they're nervous about and replace some of that energy with excitement. Encouraging them to create something for their new teacher will help them get into school mode. It will also provide an opportunity for you to talk with them about the things they're excited about, what they're afraid of, what they hope to learn and more. This project could be anything from a thoughtful note that tells their teacher their favorite subject, color, food, etc., or a fun craft or painting inspired by an adventure they had over the summer.
Help Them Pick Their Outfit
Somewhere there's likely an album full of shots from your own first days of school—new sneakers and nervous smiles included! Give your kids the opportunity to pick out what they want to wear so they'll feel more comfortable, be able to express themselves and feel like they're "in control" of their last few hours of summer before their upcoming big day. Of course, you should guide them in the right direction with weather concerns and dress codes in mind, but ultimately, the choice is theirs. You can even take this one step further and let them pick where and how they'd like to take their first day of school photos!
Talk About Things They Can Anticipate
It's likely your kids' biggest source of anxiousness stems from the "unknowns" associated with starting a new year at school. Questions like, "Will I like my teacher?" and "Will the subjects be too hard?" are running through their heads. Although you haven't been in their classroom and don't know exactly what they'll be going through, you can help make some of what they'll experience a bit more familiar through telling stories about what you loved and learned during your school days. You may even already have access to additional information from your child's school that you can share with them about their class schedule and routines.
And if nothing else, make a plan with them to get a special treat after school with you so they have a little something to look forward to throughout the day (and you will, too)!
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