What are the three most common mistakes parents make when starting their kids at a new school?
Forgetting to Prepare
“A few weeks before school starts, visit the school, drive by it a few times. Talk about it. Play on the playground. Meet the teacher so your child knows he or she is a trusted adult, someone they can count on. Most parents are good about those points. But you should also do some other homework, like familiarizing your child with their routine. For instance, if your child is attending school in the morning and they’re still hanging out in their PJs until 10 am, start waking them up around the time they’ll be eating breakfast. Also find out what type of activities and games your child’s going to play at school or if they’re going to sit in circle time, so they know what to expect on the first day. Another good idea: Have your child talk to other kids in your neighborhood who attend the same school; older kids are the best salesmen!”
Focusing on the negative
“Many parents inadvertently say things like ‘You might miss Mommy when you’re at school,’ or ‘Don’t let kids pick on you,’ and even go so far as to warn kids about strangers or germs. While it’s important to address issues as they come up, like if your child’s being picked on, it’s not the way to prep kids for school. You want your kids to see you as confident and feel as though you see their school as a positive place; a place where they’re going to learn a lot and where there are fun things to do. Say things like, ‘There will be really nice teachers,’ or ‘You’re going to make lots of friends,’ or ‘They have a really neat playground.’ You don’t have to overhype it, but don’t plant seeds of negativity before their first day.”
Not transitioning well
“This is the biggest mistakes parents make, and I hear it all the time from teachers. It’s imperative that you arrive on time, so kids get in the right routine. Coming in late when other kids are already settled is discombobulating. Another tip: Follow the teacher’s lead when it comes to separating. Teachers will often say, ‘Give Mommy a kiss and a hug and then Mommy’s going to go.’ After that, don’t linger and don’t walk in and out of the classroom; be short and sweet. Also, stick to a schedule. Arrive and pick up your kids at the same time every day. Let them know in advance if Mommy or Daddy won’t be picking them up. Kids get very anxious if you schedule a last-minute playdate without their knowledge, and suddenly another Mom is taking them home. And if you have a babysitter or nanny, let your kids know what days to expect them.”
Expert: Paul J. Donahue, psychologist and author of Parenting Without Fear: Letting Go of Worry and Focusing on What Really Matters.