Back to School Tips
The first day of school is coming up! How should you prepare your kids to avoid potential tantrums and help them ease into their first day of class?
How do you prepare your kids for their first day back to school? Does your child get anxious? Excited? Terrified? Some children ease into their first day like fish into water. Some cry like hungry babies. The more sensitive kids even display trauma symptoms as a result of extreme separation anxiety.
This can be uncomfortable as a parent: should you abandon your terrified child at his or her school? How can you help ease this transition?
The short answer is that you probably should abandon your terrified child at the school. That terror won’t last long once you’ve vacated the scene, and chances are your child will quickly turn to his or her peers for attention, consolation, and out of natural curiosity.
How quickly your child makes the transition from scaredy-cat to fish-in-water is largely dependent on the school setting—the teachers, the warmth of the facilities, the overall quality of the establishment.
But there are a few things you can do that will help calm down the first-day jitters.
"I'll Be Back"
One of the best ways to ensure your child is prepared for the first day of school is to practice “abandonment” well in advance. Leave your child with a trusted friend or family member for short periods, letting them know that you’ll “be back soon.”
Even if your child is screaming not to be left behind you must be strong. Tell them to have fun and let them know how soon you’ll return.
The parent has to be strong of will because a child will sense uncertainty, hesitation and reluctance. Adamantly insisting that you'll be back later and then following through on your word will help your child understand there is nothing to fear.
Just because you aren’t in sight doesn’t mean you’re gone forever; if your child can securely grasp this concept they’ll have a much easier time on their first day. When the morning school bell rings, tell them to have fun and remind them that you’ll be back to pick them up later.
On the big day you may see parents coddling their crying children, or even taking their kids back home with them because the little ones desperately refuse to separate. Do not emulate this behaviour; you’ll only be teaching your child that they can cry to get their way.
Make It Fun
Play pretend school with your child - once real school rolls around they'll be way ahead of the curve. Let them be the parent and you be the student who is apprehensive about the first day of class. Don’t throw a tantrum, but show them that it’s ok to be a little scared.
You can include getting dressed, preparing a lunchbox and mock homework as potential play-activities. Knowing what to expect makes a huge difference when you’re trying something out for the first time, and playing school will give you a good window into how your son or daughter feels about starting classes.
Trust in Their Ability to Adapt
Chances are that your child will go through a short adjustment period. Virtually all children take three to four days to warm up to the idea of being back at school, and this transition is facilitated by you leaving the scene as quickly as possible.
Say your “goodbyes,” and beat it. The sooner you leave them to experience their world on their own, the sooner they will begin to make sense of their surroundings.
There is a balance between forewarning first-time students to inspire confidence and comfort, and scaring them into anxiety about upcoming classes. Do your best not to add unnecessary stress and pressure prior to the first day.
Help your child to make positive connections with schooling and classes. The more positive associations they’ve made in their mind, the more likely they are to enjoy their time in school.
Kids are highly versatile little creatures, especially in a room full of peers. Don’t worry too much about your child’s separation anxiety; if you find yourself unable to stop worrying about separating with your child for the day, you know exactly where the child’s insecurities are stemming from.
Repeating “have fun,” and “be back soon,” are good ways to develop a child’s positive associations with being left at school by a parent.
Just remember, it’s normal to be nervous on the first day—even for parents.