First Day Jitters
By: Shannon Wakeland
It's that time once again. The short summer months will begin to wind down soon; lazy days at the pool or the beach will come to an end. Sleeping past 8:00am will only be for the weekends. Summer camps will be over, and there will be no more late evenings for the kids.
It's school time!
Just as fall approaches so does back-to-school anxiety, which can affect the entire family. Parents fear they won't be able to get back on schedule. Kids panic at the idea of new classes, teachers and making a fresh start with students who they do not know. We also dread the hectic mornings of throwing a lunch together; grabbing something for breakfast and making sure that the clothes your child is wearing are not wrinkled. No wonder we stress out on the first day of school! Listed below are several ideas to help you and your child focus on the positive aspects and more importantly, to make the first day of school less stressful and more fun for both of you!
Begin the week before and plan accordingly. Get your child back on the routine of going to bed at a decent hour, instead of staying up late playing or watching television.
Review information from your child's school, and fill out necessary forms.
Will your child be riding the bus? Be sure you know what the time schedule is for your child's particular bus.
If your child is walking to school, inform your child of the important safety precautions every child needs to know. If someone other than you will be picking him or her up from school, inform the staff and your child of this.
If your child takes daily medications, have the appropriate forms filled out from his or her doctor. Make sure the school's nurse has this information on the first day.
Does your child have food allergies? If so, this needs to be addressed on the first day. Teachers and staff need to be informed of precautions and procedures if need be.
Have the appropriate school supplies. Most schools mail a list out before school begins, or it is given to parents on the first day of school.
Will your child be wearing a school uniform? If not, find out the dress code so you can plan accordingly.
Call the school and see if they offer parents the opportunity to tour the school with their child. Find their class, the bathrooms, cafeteria and where they will enter and exit the building each day. This may help to comfort your child's fears.
Most importantly, does your child know his teacher(s) names? Maybe find an old picture from the school and show this to your child. Placing a face with their name may help reduce their fears.
The more you prepare your child for the first day of school, the smoother it will go for both of you. Plan your child for their new routine. Take a trial run of dropping them off and picking them up at the designated area at the school. Have them meet the teacher. Offer to let your child make his or own lunch for that first day. Add a special treat in their lunchbox, maybe even a sticker or two. Place a family picture inside; this may help your child feel less separation anxiety. If your child is a bus rider, have them ride the bus on the first day of school. Most parents want to drive their child on that very first day, but beginning with the planned schedule will help keep your child on track and may reduce anxiety.
Kids need extra support on these first few days, so prepare to comfort them and offer positive encouragement to their problems, even if they seem trivial to you. If your kid is shy, the first day of school is more than likely a first day of dread for him or her. Maybe plan ahead and take your child to places where they can meet new kids and interact with adults they do not know. This may be a place such as your local bookstore, church, the mall or a movie-theater. Give encouragement, offer your patience and provide advice on what you do would do in similar situations.
Here is a fun activity that you and your child can make the night before the first day of school. It's a memory book just for your child and in this book they can write or color their first memories on that very first day of school. Below is a list of what you will need:
- Construction paper
- Hole puncher (or stapler)
- Picture of your child
- Glue stick
- Black magic marker
- Ink Pen
The night before school, cut the construction paper in half sheet and punch holes in the side. Tie it together with the yarn and then have your child glue their picture onto the front cover. At the top of each page, write something different about that first day. Encourage your child to come with his or own ideas, such as My Teacher's Name, New Friends, My first lunch at school, My favorite time of the day, and What I learned today. This is a fun and easy craft idea! When he or she arrive home from school, sit down together and fill in the empty pages. The completed booklet will definitely be a keepsake and may offer some reassurance to your child that the first day of school can be interesting and fun. Parents may even find that their child actually looks forward going to school on that next day!
Shannon Wakeland, author of several print and online publications, resides in Charleston, SC with her husband and seven year-old son.