With September fast approaching, many families are getting ready to send their children to school for the first time. Along with the pride and excitement parents feel during the lead up to this milestone, many are concerned with how separation anxiety and those first-day jitters may affect their children. Here are some insights into making the transition from home to school a happy one.
Very young children starting school for the first time experience a range of emotions. Some may be excited while others experience difficulty and anxiety. Although it is disheartening to see your child feeling unsure, remember that this time shall pass and may last from only a few days to a few weeks.
Anxiousness passes as children begin to feel confident, secure and happy in the classroom environment. One way to help encourage these traits are to read books together about starting school. Some of my personal favourites are “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn, where Chester Raccoon learns from his mother a secret way of carrying her love with him to school, and “First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg, where Sarah Jane hides under the covers, reluctant to start her first day at her new school. We find out at the end that she isn’t a student, but the teacher!
When saying goodbye to your child at the door, I always share with parents the advice of Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Developmental Psychologist. Dr. Neufeld recommends that your last words describe the next time you will see one another, so that your child has your reunion to look forward to. Saying “see you in a few hours” or “I’m looking forward to going to the park with you after school” are just a couple of examples.
Trust that you are leaving your child in capable hands. Teachers that work with young children know that there may be tears at the door and are ready with lots of tricks and skills to comfort the children and help them feel at ease. Once the parents have left and the classroom routine has begun, children generally settle down very quickly.
Find small ways to help your child form a connection with school. If the school is in your neighbourhood, make a habit of pointing it out when you walk or drive by. Mention the teachers’ names in conversations with your child and share things you know about them such as what they look like or skills they may have. Make the start of school something that is filled with wonder and count down the “sleeps” until the big day. Speak positively about school, without any signs of nervousness or anxiety, for example “Ms. Bettina loves animals and has chinchillas in your classroom that you will get to see every day. Isn’t that exciting?”
Never underestimate the power of rest. It is so important to have strong bedtime and morning routines in place. Encourage 10 to 12 hours of sleep and make sure to have time in your morning for a healthy breakfast too. This will help your child to have the fuel to have a great day at school. Arriving a few minutes early helps your child to take in the new surroundings, socialize with new friends and come to class calm and ready.
Congratulations to all the families embarking on the wonderful adventure that comes with a child attending school for the very first time. We encourage parents to set the tone to the start of their child’s formal schooling by projecting a happy, confident and excited attitude towards this very special milestone.
About the Author:
Bettina Tioseco is the dynamic head of school at Westside Montessori School in Vancouver, BC. 🇨🇦
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