There are simple ways to prepare your kiddos for the first day of a new school so that they are less apprehensive about their new environment. We are about a month out from the school season, and many parents whose children are starting school for the first time or joining a new school are nervous. Research shows that, especially for the elementary and young middle-schoolers, their early childhood school experience plays a defining role in their academic success in later years. Let's discuss what you can do to prepare your children for this day.
A Month Before School Starts: Socialize
Reach out to the school administration and ask them to put you in touch with other parents in your classroom. Once you have their contact information, reach out to those parents and arrange a get-together at a park, library, or even on school grounds. Ideally, you get together with those families at least once more before the first day of school. Establishing a good relationship with your kids' new teachers and school administration is also critically important. Invite their teachers and school staff to the outings if possible.
Afterward, talk to your children about their experience meeting their new classmates. Take a pulse on their mental and emotional state, and be sure to acknowledge their feelings.
Getting the kids to meet before the first day of school goes a long way towards helping your children feel more confident and even excited as the new school season begins.
Three Weeks Before School Starts: Shop
Go school shopping at least three weeks before school opens and make a day of it. Be sure to get a list of your school's required supplies and have your child add a few fun items to the list. I highly recommend that you and your kiddos do this in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting and not online. As much as possible, have your children lead the shopping experience: for younger kids, you can lead them to the right aisle in the store, and they can pick the items and place them into the cart. Older kids can be leaders; you are simply a "consultant." And don't forget to shop for clothes also. You can include that into your school supplies shopping day or designate a different day and shop for clothes and shoes. Be sure to have fed the kiddos beforehand; nothing can ruin a fun school shopping experience more than hungry and tired children. Don't forget to take plenty of pictures and commemorate the day.
Two Weeks Before School Starts: Set Intentions
Set intentions with your children for the school year ahead. You can set the overarching intention and select a focus word for each month. Some words that come in handy for this purpose are acceptance, joy, hope, friendship, patience, forgiveness, love, perseverance, and understanding. Talk to your children about their selected words, what they mean, and how your children will model the core essence of those words in their new environment.
One Week Before School Starts: Read
Get some books regarding the first day of school from your local library and read those together. You can find great books for all ages that will help reduce your children's anxiety here. Once done reading, be sure to discuss the book as a family.
The Night Before the First Day of School: Get Ready
Be sure your kids get plenty of rest and eat a healthy meal before bedtime. Set their clothes out if they are younger, and encourage your middle schoolers to do the same. Pack a healthy lunch and snack for your kiddos and place a hand-written note in their lunch box. This note does not need to be exhaustive; just a couple of encouraging sentences that help them feel secure and loved will go a long way.
The First Day of School: Enjoy
It's finally here, and you and your family are ready to start a new chapter. Get an early start to the day, feed your kids a healthy breakfast, and don't forget the traditional first day of school photo. It is exceptionally important that parents are in a good mood; children model after their parents. If you show anger, sadness, or frustration, they will mirror those exact emotions which will shape their experience on their first day. Please note, I am a big believer in not denying yourself of ANY emotions; however, please do so at the right time and place and not right before taking your kids to their new school. Again, when picking up your children, be in a jolly mood and have them talk about their day. As much as I want to say that your children will be elated about their first day, they might be exhausted, sad or disappointed. This is where you help your children connect to their intentions and explore their emotions.
Final Thoughts on Preparing
Preparing your kiddos for this day can be stressful and tiresome. Be sure to give yourself plenty of grace and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can as a parent. Take note of what works and what doesn't, and most importantly, help your children learn and grow from their experiences.
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