Regardless of if your child is starting school for the first time, or returning after a long holiday or break, preparing them for going back to school can be a little stressful. This stress is not felt by just the parents as they have to readjust to juggling work, education, and childcare schedules. It can also by the child. In most cases, it’s felt even more by the child. A degree of anxiety is not unusual and should be expected. It can also be a stressful time for parents as well as we adjust to juggling work, education, and childcare schedules.
Most specialists working with children have told parents and guardians that a certain amount of angst about going back or starting school can be normal and usually isn’t harmful. By helping your kids cope with any stress they might be dealing with, parents can help prevent this angst and anxiety from escalating.
One way to do this is to involve your kids in back to school shopping and also to buy the right back to school items. This can get the kids in an excited mode. For example, if you buy the right back to school shoes, make sure that they are comfortable kids shoes so on the first day back your child is not in pain or uncomfortable. Talk to them about their fears, and listen with empathy. Children will tell you everything if they know you’re willing to listen with an open mind.
Here are additional tips to help parents prepare their children for going back to school:
Involve your Kids in Back to School Shopping
Going to the store and picking out school items is fun and creates a sense of excitement for what’s to come. Let your child pick out their own backpack, snacks, and school supplies. Talk about the items at home and what they will get to do with them at school. You can get them to pick out their backpack or pick a color theme for all their items. You can also take your kids snack shopping so they pick out the snacks they want.
Visit the School Before the First Day Back
If attending a new school, try to visit your child’s school at least one week in advance. Let your child get familiar with classrooms, hallways and important offices such as the principal and the nurse. If once a week is too much, then take the child to the school at least once before the first day of school. This is especially important if your child is starting school for the first time or if he or she is changing school.
Help your Kids Make Friends
If possible, find out if there are any friends, relatives or neighbors in their class. Knowing a child and creating a buddy system makes the transition to move more smoothly. It’s possible some kids in your neighborhood are starting the same school. Have them over before school starts or team up with other parents to have playdates so the kids can build a friendship before school. Having a friend creates a much needed familiarity especially on the first day back when everything is new and unknown.
Do your Homework
If possible, talk to the teacher, the nurse, the guidance counselor and the principal in advance. Show both your interest and your goodwill. Tell them of any concerns you have in regard to your children’s health, and apprise them of any learning problems in advance. If you have the time, be active in PTA (Parents, teachers association) and get involved so you can be consulted in during decision making.
Start a Bedtime Schedule One Week in Advance
Start a bedtime schedule one week in advance of school so that your child gets at least 10 hours of sleep at night. This also prepares them for the new school night bedtime schedule. Starting it on the first day of school combined with all the other new experiences they had on the first day might be too much for them. As an adult, we know how cranky we get when we are tired, and so do our children. Remember that they don’t have our coping skills. Include familiarity in any way you can.
A ‘safety first’ attitude is a very important part of preparing for the first day of school. You want your children to know traffic safety as well as physical safety. Young children should know their name, how to spell it, their telephone number and the number of a safe and responsible adult that is designated by their parents. Teach your child the proper way in advance to deal with bullies by reporting them to either a teacher or counselor.
Talk with your children about their feelings and invite them to participate in a conversation that gives them some sense of control. Never embarrass, discount or demean your children’s feelings. Ask them how they would like to be helped in this transition. Find out what things parents can do and they can do as partners to make the first day of school a pleasant beginning. This is called the empathic process, and if you invest children in the discussion, they are more likely to follow a smooth outcome and go happily to school.
A little preparation before the big day can go a long way in easing your child’s transition back to school. It is important to be honest with your children and tell them you will miss them too and that they will like school because it will give them new and exciting experiences. Be empathetic, be compassionate, be proactive and be firm. Nurture your children, meet their needs and be reliable. Life is about growth and stages and this is just another stage that you’ll look back and be grateful for.