In the spring, most of us count down the days to “school’s out” with the same anticipation and excitement of our children. We’ve eager to give-up checking over homework, making lunches, rigid schedules and the demands of extras like ballet or soccer. We long for a more relaxed schedule, family vacations and just hanging out. But September comes quickly and whether we’re happy hanging on to summer or ready for more routine, school’s just around the corner. It’s time for new backpacks, new teachers and new friends.
Although starting school can be exciting for our children, it can also be a time of uncertainty and anxiety. “Will my new teacher be nice or mean?” “Whom will I play with?” “How will I know where to go?” Imagine starting a new job with a new boss. It’s kind of the same. How can we help our children get ready for school? Here are a few tips to help the transition run more smoothly for you and your child.
What Should We Do?
Take Care of the Paperwork – It’s so easy to let that medical form keep falling to the bottom of our “To Do” pile. Whether it’s immunizations forms or emergency contact numbers, make sure you complete all the necessary paperwork. Call the school and double check to make sure they have your forms. Children can feel uncomfortable or even anxious when the school or their teacher asks for something they know nothing about.
Get the Right Info – Sometimes we busy parents don’t get all the information or even if we do, we forget small details. Sounds crazy, but know the date when school starts. It is a half day or full day? Will I drop-off my child or spend time in the classroom? Is my child taking the bus or am I driving the first day? When we know and feel confident about the logistics our children do too.
Get the Right Stuff – We all feel better when we have the right stuff to do the job and this is especially true with children. Most schools have a list of supplies to bring. The list may range from specific notebooks to purchase to old shirts for artwork. Work with your child to collect or buy the items and have them ready for the first day and labeled with your child’s name.
Help Your Kid be Cool – We all have not-so-great memories of not fitting in at school. Some children have more anxiety than others about this. You may want to find out what types of clothes, backpacks or lunchboxes most children have. No, we can’t buy our children everything they want and aspiring to be the most popular kid at school shouldn’t be a goal we set for our children, but we don’t want to show up for work dressed in a suit and tie when everyone else is business causal. Learn the school culture.
Know the First Day is a Big Deal – For our Kindergarteners, we may show up the first day of school with three rolls of film and the entire family. With our third graders, it’s easy to feel like “they went to school there last year. What’s the big deal?” Older children may feel even more anxious about academic expectations or making new friends and at the same time be hesitant to reveal their true feelings. Ask questions to understand what your child may be thinking.
Be Positive about School – Learning to like school and liking to learn are closely related. Plus, studies show that the more children see parents and teachers are working together, the better the children do. Our children’s early school experiences contribute to their attitudes towards school in the years ahead. Everything we can do to support, encourage and validate our children’s positive feelings about school is important.
Gigi Schweikert is the president and COO of Lightbridge Academy and an expert in the field of early childhood education. She has managed corporate childcare centers and their educational programs for more than 30 years. Schweikert was the host of Today’s Family and is a bestselling author of eighteen books. Follow 1851 Franchise as she shares her tips on parenting and childcare.