Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is more of a mess on the first day of school – the kids, or the parents!
If you are facing all the emotions and possible separation anxiety of the first day of school or kinder, these handy tips below may help you all cope.
Ten Tips for the First Day of School
Visit the school beforehand
Almost all schools will have an orientation program that happens the year before your child’s first year of school. These usually aren’t compulsory, but they are a very good idea.
If you know more than a year ahead which school your child will be going to, get in contact to find out about their orientation. It will usually involve several visits to the school, to see the classroom and meet your child’s teacher, and even stay at school for a period without you there.
Get your child used to new items and routines
Helping your child to become familiar with the changes and routines he will be facing in the new environment can help reduce anxiety for him.
Introduce your child to having, and being responsible for, his own lunchbox and drink bottle. You can go and buy new ones together, let him choose them and make them be special.
If you can, find out when he will be eating his morning snack and lunch during the school day, and then in the week before he starts school, get him eating on this schedule and out of his lunchbox. Make sure that he can open any containers.
When school starts, you could start putting little notes or pictures in the lunchbox from you.
Check how the school handles crying children
If you feel that there might be some issue for your child around separation, talk to the school or your child’s teacher before the first day about how they handle crying children.
It can exceptionally hard for you to walk away if your child is sobbing, but the honest truth is that almost all children recover, and are fine, within minutes of you leaving. For your own peace of mind, chat with the school about what they’ll do to calm your child and also if they’ll call you if their distress doesn’t stop.
Take something special (but not too special!)
Let your child take a special toy or something else from home to comfort him during the day if they need it. Don’t send their most treasured toy however because it could get lost or ruined in some way. Choose another toy, or perhaps give them a picture of the family.
Buy something new for school
A digital watch is another wonderful gift from home – it is such a big kid present. You can find low-cost watches for kids from discount stores, you don’t need to splurge as again it is likely to get lost or ruined.
One Shire Mum bought her daughter a snuggly llama pencil case from K-Mart and then added some little special items from home to it, including a note from her, and a little notepad and pencils for her daughter to draw a picture for Mum during the day. This ‘No-drama llama’ became a special part of being ok with school.
Help them settle in
On the first day, help them to get settled by taking them to the classroom and reintroducing them to their teacher. You’ll probably be able to help them put things in a specific cubby and get settled in the classroom with an activity, or pop them in a welcome circle with other children.
If you need it, a teacher or another school staff member should be able to help take your child from you and distract them if they’re particularly anxious about letting you go.
Don’t sneak away
If your child seems settled in the classroom or is busy with something it can be very tempting to just try to sneak away at this point. It is important to say goodbye to your child and let them know that you’re leaving now, and also remind them that you’ll be back at the end of the day.
Don’t draw things out into a long, sad goodbye, however, as this can make your child think that school is a bad place. Say a clear goodbye, keep things short and get out – kind of like ripping off a band-aid!
Create a goodbye routine
You and your child could create your own special secret handshake, or goodbye routine, and then doing this signals that it’s time for a clear farewell. You could try something like a kiss on each cheek, and nuzzle of noses and then a high five to each hand – before confidently walking away.
Make up your own one that is special to the two of you. Then have a smile or make a funny face for your child as you leave their sight.
Look after yourself
This can be as difficult a moment for parents as it is for the kids – sometimes even harder. You’ll have all of your own feelings about them growing up and reaching such an important milestone, and you may also feel uncertain about your own role.
Don’t ignore or brush off your own feelings. Your child will sense if you’re upset and may take their cues from you, so it’s important for you to acknowledge and deal with how you’re feeling.
Schedule something for yourself to do after drop off on the first day, like a massage or coffee with friends. Many schools may also have a morning tea arranged in another part of the school for parents who need a little recovery time after saying goodbye.
Have downtime after school
One of the most important ways to help your child come down from a long day at school is to not try to do much afterwards. We often overstimulate our kids after school by scheduling something like sport or a class, or we spend the time immediately after pick up barraging our kids with questions about their day.
After you greet your child, just be in this moment together. Let them calm down and reconnect with you in their own way, which may be just quiet time together or free play with their toys. Make the end of the school day as pleasant and smooth as the beginning, and then they’re more likely to head off to school happily again the next day!