If your child is headed to kindergarten, middle school or high school this year, they may be nervous about what to expect. These are big transitions and your child is either excited and eager to go to the new school (for a few lucky parents) or anxious and unsure (for most). Here are some tips to smooth the transitions and start the year off right.
To help both you and your child feel secure and excited about going to kindergarten for the first time, you need to plan ahead. Some young children jump right in, acting as if they had been there all of their lives, but others are shy and scared. Try these ideas to make going to school as easy as possible.
Don’t Miss Orientations.
No matter what grade your kids are entering this year, be sure to attend Back-to-School Nights and Meet the Teacher(s) events before school starts. It makes a huge difference to see a friendly face on the first day of school.
Be relaxed but excited.
Kids can sense any anxiety you may be feeling, so be sure to talk positively about school. Don’t ask them if they are nervous if they haven’t even considered that they need to be nervous yet. (Boy, do my kids run with the power of suggestion, so head it off at the pass.) Talk positively with your child about the fun they can expect in kindergarten, like learning new songs and playing games and recess, but don’t focus on it too much or don’t try to oversell the “play” part. School can be fun but it is for learning.
Practice makes perfect.
Kids will feel more secure if they know what to expect so practice walking to school or the bus stop. Or drive to the school and say, “This is where Mom will park or where the bus will drop you off and that is the door you will go into. Then this is where you will be picked up each day.” Bring your camera and some Kleenex for that first bus ride and ask another child to help them on the bus. Share tissues with the other moms because trust me, there will be tears. But be sure to send off your child with happy – not hysterical—tears. Or hysterical relief – that’s not a good signal to send either.
Let them have a say.
Be sure to get their school supplies early and let the kids pick out a special folder or a cool backpack to express themselves. Let them draw a picture of the family or a beloved pet to hang in their cubby, if allowed. Let your child pick out the special “first day” outfit the night before (or if they are wardrobe challenged, let them choose a part of it, such as a favorite shirt or funky socks.) To remember this fond moment, take a picture of them on their first day. There’s no better place to start making new friends than at the bus stop. Ask another child to help them on the bus or encourage your kids to introduce themselves to the other kids waiting.
Kids love to play school. Help them see what kinds of activities they might encounter in school with this Ready, Set, School Activity Kit from Alex Toys that we sell over at the Chocolate Cake Club.
Read books about kindergarten.
Reading together with your child is always one of the best ways to help them prepare for kindergarten. For kids who are anxious and don’t know what to expect in this big transition period, books like “Let Get Ready for Kindergarten” by Stacey Kannenberg covers the alphabet, letters, rhyming, numbers, and shapes to help ease them into the school year. We like funnier books to ease our fears, so we enjoyed “Jake Starts School,” by Michael Wright.
We’ll be covering tips for Middle School and High School next.