Most parents have heard the horror stories of children traumatically beginning school. For days the child sobs through school. He hits and bites other children. And the parents’ struggle to get him out the door and onto the bus each morning is a Herculean task.
It doesn’t have to be like that for your child. With some simple preparation you can minimize the anxiety for you and your child as he begins elementary school.
These 12 tips will help you assess whether you’re ready for that big day:
- Develop a love of reading. Hopefully, you already have a family tradition of reading together every day. If not, it’s essential that you begin now—it only takes about 15 minutes a day. Your child needs to love reading to do well in school and life.
- Establish good sleeping habits. Don’t wait to get into the routine of getting adequate sleep. A few weeks before school begins, gradually move bedtime towards the time they’ll need to go to bed during the school year—maybe 8:00 or 8:30. You can also start setting an alarm to wake up in the morning, leaving you plenty of time to get your child prepared for the day without rushing. (It’s a good idea to have a few trial runs on getting ready, so you know how long it will really take.)
- Shop for new school clothes that your child can manage. It would be terribly embarrassing for your child to have an accident because he couldn’t get his clothes off fast enough to go to the bathroom. Can your child handle shoelaces, zippers, snaps and buttons?
- Visit school a number of times, taking advantage of the orientation. Often, if you ask, you can visit on your own. Otherwise, use the orientation times provided. Knowing where to go is a major concern for your child. Find the classroom, the bathrooms, the library, the lunchroom and the office. And make sure to play on the playground if that’s allowed. If not, at least admire it and talk about how much fun it will be to play there.
- Get acquainted with the office staff and teacher. The quicker your child forms a bond with these people the better. Speak at home of the new teacher by name in positive ways such as, “Mr. Teacher is a great teacher, and you and he are going to get along really well.” Encourage your child to draw a picture to take to him on the first day of school.
- Practice saying goodbye. If your child has been in daycare, it will be easier to say goodbye. If he’s not spent a lot of time away from you, it would be a good idea to practice goodbyes a number of weeks before school begins. You may wish to enroll your child in preschool for a few hours every week. This gives both you and your child practice at being separated without the anxiety of school looming overhead.
- Let your child choose his own school supplies once you get the required list. It’s fun and exciting for your child to stash them away like treasures in his new backpack.
- Speak positively about what you loved in school. Even if you hated school, there must be one or two positive things you can say…like how fun music class was, or how great recess is. Your example matters a great deal.
- Make sure your child has practical social skills. When it comes to a group of children, your child will benefit from knowing how to share, wait in line, sit quietly, listen to instructions, wait his turn, say “please” and “thank you” and be able to express his feelings in a polite way.
- Practice repeating emergency information. It’s important for your child to memorize his full name, his parents’ names, his address, and his telephone number. It’s unbelievably reassuring to a parent when a child can do this.
- If possible, meet other children that will be in his class for a play date before school begins. Talk to other parents in your neighborhood, or the school may be able to connect you with the other parents.
- Pick your child up on time. It would be best to arrive 15 minutes early. Nothing creates anxiety in your child more than being forgotten or just having those few minutes of panic in thinking that he’s been forgotten. Excitedly talk about what happened during school and have a treat on the way home or waiting at home.
As a parent, you know your child best. So just give some thought to what will help your child fit into his new role in school. You’ll be able to head off any trouble before it starts. And that will make elementary school a happy experience for both you and your child.
Carmela Guizar-Sanchez is a PAMP member and owner of Simplify Home Solutions, a lifestyle and household concierge service. She has a daughter age 7, son age 4 and just recently welcomed another son to their joyous family. You can find more of her tips at www.simplifyhomesolutions.com.
Image provided by Melissa Miller & Vinnie Fernandez, PAMP’s Lead Photographers and co-owners of C’est Jolie Photography