Heading back to school, or going for the first time, can trigger anxiety in children of any age. Preschool and kindergarten children deal with their fears in many different ways, and many times this is because school is such an unknown concept to them.
We have a general understanding of what the first day of school will be like for them; they’ll get acquainted with the teacher, the students, and the rules of the classroom. But they don’t know any of this.
Teaching PreK and then kindergarten helped me learn different ways parents and teachers prepared the kids for beginning a school year. Together with my knowledge and the input of my daughter’s play therapist, I’ve complied a list of ways to help your child minimize their stress, calm their fears, and prepare for a year in school.
Take them for a classroom tour.
Being able to see where they’ll spend a good part of their day can help your child ease into a new setting. Often children love to see things that are familiar to them — maybe the classroom has the same books that they have at home, or some of the same toys. While the surprise of a new classroom on the first day might feel fun to you, it’s not the same to a child.
Read books to prepare them for how they will feel.
One book my students seemed to read every year with their parents was The Kissing Hand. It’s one of the best books for first-day jitters, and the ideas that stem from it (heart in the lunchbox, a hand cut-out) are treasured. Here are some other great books to read:
- It’s Back to School We Go!
- The Night Before First Grade
- Mrs. Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
- First Day Jitters
Set up school — at home!
Take a half day and play school. Have your child wake up and get dressed, get in the car and be driven around the block, eat a packed lunch, and follow school rules. You’ll be able to see something they might need help with, and they’ll understand that school and home are alike in many ways.
Be prepared to head back to school, or take them home with you.
The first day of kindergarten, one of my students fell apart. His mom and I tried several things to calm him down enough to stay, but he ended up leaving with her. I admired her for knowing when it was just too much for him. Within a week, he was one of my most enthusiastic students who loved being in class, but he needed that reassurance on the first day. You may not be able to take your child home, but staying a few minutes longer or coming back at lunch might be just what they need.
Let the teacher know ahead of time about any concerns or needs.
Email is probably the best way to do this. That way the teacher has access to it at any time, and isn’t trying to remember which child loves to take their shoes off outside and which needs some encouragement to eat instead of talk. Keep it short and concise — a laundry list is an impossibility to meet with a roomful of children. Not only does a quick email help the teacher prepare, but if the problem arises, your child will know their teacher understands just like a parent does.
This is meant for you — parents who come to school with the DSLR hanging off their necks and tissues hanging out of their purse. Your child is already going to be overwhelmed and trying to adjust to the new faces and surroundings, while coping with you leaving. It makes it so much harder to have a parent who is a disaster or makes the day into a full Facebook-worthy photo shoot in a half hour. Take a photo or two, assure your child they’re going to do great, and once that door is closed bawl your way to the car — with the rest of the parents who feel exactly the same right now.
Photo courtesy of ThinkStock
Diana blogs at Diana Wrote about her life with a daughter here and three sons in heaven, life as an army wife, and her faith. You can also find her work on Liberating Working Moms, She Reads Truth, Still Standing Magazine, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post, with smaller glimpses into her day on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.