The first day of school is an exciting time. Some children can’t wait to go. They look forward to beginning a new school year while others are completely terrified. Whether your children are going to school for the very first time or are headed into a new grade level at a different building, you want them to approach the situation without fear. There are plenty of ways you can approach this milestone to make them feel comfortable no matter how much experience they have had with school in the past.
Many schools welcome students and parents to the building for a special back to school open house. If this event is an option for your family, attend it with your children. It is a chance for you to explore the building with your children and to meet the teachers and administrators with whom they will be interacting daily. Alongside your children, you can navigate the hallways and find the rooms where they will be spending their time. Seeing their classrooms prior to the first day will help clear up any mysteries about where they will be going. Meeting the people who work in the building will also help them to feel comfortable about making it through that first day. Another priceless benefit to attending a back to school open house is that your children will see the other kids who will accompany them in the building. They may run into old friends, see kids from their neighborhood, or spark up a new relationship with a potential pal.
When there are no scheduled open house events prior to the first day or when you are unable to make the occasion, see if it is possible to have a private tour. Contact the school prior to arriving. You may be allowed to roam the building at your will or have a staff member guide you to the places where your child will need to be. Don’t be surprised to find some of the teachers there preparing their classrooms for the first day. If your children’s teachers are present, it is okay to stop by and introduce yourselves, but remember that the teachers’ time is precious and they have work to do, so do not impose upon too much of their time.
Get in a Routine
Another activity you can do with your children to best prepare them for beginning a new school year is to practice the routine they need to follow to get to school. This may mean taking a walk to the bus stop or to the building itself. You can drive your kids along the route their school bus will take to the building. This will help familiarize them with the route that they will be taking. If you are able to travel the entire distance to school, spend some time on the playground or walking around the school grounds so that your kids can adjust to their surroundings while feeling safe with you there.
Test the Combination
Older children entering junior high or middle school are often given their very first locker. Knowing how to work a combination lock is a new skill many will have to learn. Commonly, youngsters feel a bit anxious about having this new responsibility. One way to build their confidence is to have them practice working a combination lock at home. Frequently, students are given their locker assignment and its combination when they receive their class schedule. Once they have it, they can practice memorizing their special numbers. If you can visit the school prior to the first day, have your children find their lockers’ location and practice opening them. Their new responsibility won’t be so intimidating if they have had a bit of practice beforehand.
Read a Book
Countless storybooks with plots about characters going to school have been written for young readers. Read these with your children so they can see the similarities and differences between settings. Talk about how these story’s settings will compare to your children’s own school environment. Stories about school can also help your children learn to deal with conflicts they will encounter in the classroom. From the books, you can spark discussions about resolving conflicts with your children.
Remind your children that there will be others who will feel uncomfortable about going to school at the beginning of the year. Teach your kids how to break the ice when they encounter new students. You can role play introducing oneself and creating small talk. When your kids know how to approach making new friends and getting through the first few days of school, the experience won’t be so daunting.