©iStockphoto.com/Christopher Futcher Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/Christopher Futcher
When your child walks into the classroom for the first time, she's dealing with conflicting emotions. On the one hand she's excited by the new experience, but on the other hand she's scared of being away from you. So your efforts should focus on getting her used to being with other people without your presence and on making her comfortable in her new environment. Here are some simple ways to help your child adjust to the school-going experience.
Before school starts
You want to lavish time and attention on your child in the weeks before school starts, but this is actually when he needs to start spending less time with you.
• Arrange with other parents to leave your child at their homes for a couple of hours and do the same for them. This teaches your child to play and share with others and builds up his confidence that you will return.
• Your child will accept your departure on the first day of school more easily if the classroom is somewhat familiar to him. Some school boards offer staggered enrolment and home or classroom visits to help children get accustomed.
• To familiarize him with the atmosphere, visit the school together around registration time or before school starts. You can also stop by the schoolyard on walks in the summer and play together on the swings and the jungle gym.
• Your child's routine is going to change dramatically, so ease him into it by briefing him on the things that will be required of him in class, such as listening closely, reading quietly, sitting still and hanging up his coat.
• Starting a week before the first day, have him get up and dress himself at the time he will once school starts. If this means he's getting up earlier, he should go to bed earlier.
Page 1 of 2 – Find out how to get organized before the big day on page 2.
Label your child's belongings: every shoe and boot, jacket and sweater, mitt and scarf, school bag and snack pack. Show your child how to recognize his name and to identify his own things.
In the weeks before school teach your child his full name, address and phone number. Other useful information for him to know is the babysitter's name, his mother's and father's first and last names and their places of work. Teach him this information as a game, not as a chore.
The first day
Arrive at the school just a few minutes before starting time. Be certain that the teacher knows your child is there and has greeted her and made her welcome. Then give her a casual kiss goodbye and leave. Even if she cries - and this is the tough part - leave. In most cases those tears will dry by the time you leave the schoolyard.
While you may be tempted to linger or stay for the whole session, don't. You will send the message that you don't trust the teacher, that school might be a dangerous or scary place or that you don't think she can handle this new situation on her own.
Make sure your child is picked up on time; he may get nervous if he is the last one to be picked up.
Since school is now a part of his everyday life, don't make a big fuss about him making it through the day. Spend some quiet time with him and ask questions in a positive way: "What was the best thing that happened in school today?" "What did you like best?"
OK, so you're ready to get your child adjusted to school life. But are you ready? This is a milestone in your child's life and, therefore, it's one in yours, too. Sometimes parents suffer more separation anxiety than their child does. Letting go a little at a time is a fact of parenting. But you'll have more peace of mind when you know your child is prepared for her new life as a student.
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