Many parents and children dread the first day of school with jitters about separation from each other.
Children are nervous about being away from their parents, in a new surrounding, having to make new friends, and about being around many new people including teachers and other children, many of whom are also uneasy about their new school.
Parents feel guilty when they leave a crying child begging for his or her parents.
This is very common, but there are a few ways we can calm our nerves and help make the first day easier on us and our children:
• Make sure you are positive and don’t add to any negative vibes or concerns. Share positive and fun times they can look forward to.
• Find a time to go to the school, walk through and help acclimate your child to the campus. Locate the classrooms, the cafeteria and restrooms. Take advantage of any open house or orientation to introduce your child to the school and hopefully his or her teachers. This can help those entering kindergarten, a new school, junior high or high school. They will have greater comfort when they walk in the front door for the first day. They’ll also be seeing the space for the first time when it’s not as chaotic.
• Read books to your child about the first day of school. Those include Adam Rex’s School’s First Day of School, Julie Danneberg’s First Day Jitters and Nancy Carlson’s Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come, according to a National Public Radio article on back to school anxiety.
• Do not wait until the first day to begin a new routine. Gradually adjust their bedtime and when they wake up. You and your children might be anxious and restless but try to ensure they have a good night’s sleep.
• Try to make the morning of the first day as laid back as possible. You can pick out clothes together ahead of time. They can help gather their backpack and supplies ahead of time.
• Listen. Encourage your children, regardless of their age, to talk about their concerns about their new teacher, new school, other children and homework. These are normal feelings. Let them know most of us have had them. You should try to be supportive without exacerbating the child’s worries, according to the Child Mind Institute.
• Develop a routine for drop off, which will help moving forward. Say goodbye. Your child shouldn’t feel you just left.
• You can write a note for the child to read during the day. You can send other trinkets or small reminders of home, family, pets or vacation.
• Look for any signs of prolonged stress or unhealthy behavior that could be more than typical separation anxiety. You can talk to the teacher, counselor or others if problems persist. You want to ensure there is not bullying or other problems.
• Give more encouragement!
Good luck with the first day and have a great school year!