Sending Your First Child to School
A positive, responsible attitude about your child’s first day of school can send a lot of good messages about school itself. Children pick up on their parents’ feelings, so take school seriously.
Before school even starts…
Find out what your child’s thinking about going to school. You never know what kinds of fears or worries are on a child’s mind. Talking about these concerns in advance can make things more relaxed on day one.
Visit the school with your child. Walk around the grounds, see if you can visit your child’s classroom, show your child what will happen at the beginning and ending of each day. This will make your child feel more comfortable, and it will send the message that you care about this big step.
A week or so before school starts, begin shifting from a summer schedule to a school-year schedule. The old early-to-bed, early-to-rise thing. Being well rested will help your child deal better with all of the newness of the first day.
The night before
Get everything ready. Put out every item of clothing your child will be wearing. This can help avoid those battles children like to put up about getting dressed. Get the backpack ready too, and load it with everything that will be going to school the next day (except for a lunch that needs refrigeration).
Talk about how the school day will begin and end, even if you’ve done this before. If your child will be taking the school bus, make sure to explain how to get the bus when school is over. It’s not so complicated in the morning, when the bus comes to your house or a nearby corner, but the afternoons can be noisy and confusing to a kid who hasn’t done this before.
Discuss the importance of staying on the school grounds until the bus comes, or until the person designated to pick up your child arrives. And be sure to talk about who is and is not going to be doing the pick-ups. The school should have this information as well.
That first morning
Get up in plenty of time to eat a healthy breakfast. If there are last minute fears and anxieties, you can say you understand that it’s a little bit scary to start something new, but the teacher will be there to help with any problems at all. When you get to school, try not to drag out the goodbye. Express confidence, something like, “I’m sure you’ll do well today, and I can’t wait to hear all about it!” And then it’s time for you to go.
During the year
Play an active role in the school community. If you have the time, volunteer. Attend the parent-teacher meetings. If your schedule conflicts with school activities, ask whether there is anything you can do for the school at home.
Show interest in your child’s school work and progress. On a daily basis, try to have a look at the most recent projects, work sheets and anything else your child brings home.
Additionally, if you notice your child avoiding the teacher, try to figure out why. Children who develop positive relationships with their teachers tend to do better in school.
Why does the beginning of kindergarten matter so much?
It might seem silly to place so much importance on getting a good start at the kindergarten level. Good grief, the kids are only five years old! But studies have shown that children who start out with positive feelings about school are more likely to participate in school activities and show more learning progress than kids who start off with negative feelings about school.
Parents who set a positive tone and demonstrate that education is a priority are likely to have children who will feel the same way.
National Parents Information Network, Parent News, September-October 2002;