The first day of school is a significant milestone for any child and parent. You’ll probably feel proud as your child nears his first day, but you also might feel a little sad, or even apprehensive, about letting your baby spend so much time without you – especially if he or she has been at home with you since birth. Will he make friends? Will the other kids be nice? Is he ready for preschool from an academic standpoint?
Thankfully, there are plenty of practical ways you can help prepare your child for his first day of school before you have to drop him off and wave goodbye. They’ll help ease your mind, and get your child excited about spreading his wings.
Prepare for What School Will be Like
This might mean reading books about preschools (find great school-positive books here), discussing what it will be like there, or even playing “school” where you take turns playing the role of teacher, students, and other students. Play helps children process emotions, so pay extra careful attention to any verbal clues that might signal that he is feeling anxious or scared about his first day.
If you can visit the school your child will be attending and meet with his teacher. You can even take him to play on the playground, and visit the most common areas, such as the cafeteria or library.
Practice Necessary Skills
Your child might be required to do several new things while navigating his first day of school. You can help make these activities less stressful by practising them ahead of time in the days and weeks leading up to the first day. For instance, practice zipping and unzipping his coat, removing his mittens, hanging them on a hook, unzipping his lunch box and opening a thermos or water bottle. Having these skills in advance will give your child confidence when he needs to use them.
Open the Lines of Communication
Your child may want to talk about school as the day gets closer. Provide the opportunity to express how he’s feeling, whether he’s excited, anxious or sad about being away from you. He may have any combination of all these feelings, as will you. Let him know it’s entirely reasonable to feel whatever way he’s feeling. Studies have shown that validating a child’s feeling of anxiety and giving him a positive first association of school is an excellent way to set kids up for success.