The first day of big school is a tremendously important one in your child’s overall development. If you are well-prepared, then you have no need to worry about how it will go; it will be smooth.
Your child will pick up on your confident demeanor and feel confident as well.
Below are a few tips that will help you make sure you and your child are ready to have the best first day of school ever (and make life a bit easier for the teachers, too):
- Label your child’s bag, clothes and other belongings with their name. Things will get mixed up and go missing – they’re usually found, but unless there’s a name on it, it can be very difficult for us to know what belongs to whom!
- Read the weather report and dress your child appropriately. If there is any chance of rain, ensure your child has appropriate clothes to cope with that. Don’t assume that we stay inside all day just because of a bit of rain – we don’t!
- Allow plenty of time! If you’re running late, you will be stressed and your stress will seep into your child; they can sense it. To ensure the smoothest possible start, allow an extra fifteen minutes in case something goes wrong in the morning. Hopefully it won’t and you can have a leisurely morning of final preparations, before smoothly traveling into school with plenty of time to spare.
- Encourage the child to help you pack their bag. This performs two main purposes; one, it helps their independence if they get the sense that they are preparing for their own departure and two, it ensures they know what is actually in their bag.
- Let the child carry their own bag. On the first day, the feeling of carrying your own bag serves to reinforce your child’s sense of independence and pride of finally making it to the big school. It also gets them used to the feeling of being responsible for their own possessions, which is a very important developmental skill.
- Let your child know that their teacher is there for them and if they need anything – especially if they need to go to the toilet – they should raise their hand or approach their teacher and ask.
- Say goodbye cheerfully and firmly at the classroom door. If you are ambivalent, then your child might sense that there is an option to leave and start to get unsettled. If you give off a demeanor that is calm, collected, certain and happy, than so will your child be.
- In the afternoon, show an interest in school without carrying out an inquisition. We’ve all seen those TV shows where the parent goes fishing for answers about their child’s day at school. Sometimes the details are not immediately available, or maybe they’re tired and don’t want to talk about it right away – but eventually, the stories will come out so don’t worry. A simple: “what did you get up to at school today?” is enough; you’ll know if your child wants to talk – but don’t force it.
- Encourage new classmates to come and play after school. One of the best ways to solidify friendships between your child and others is to allow them into each other’s lives, seeing how they live, what toys they play with and how they interact with their families. These are valuable learning experiences that should certainly be encouraged. The social benefits of this are also self-evident.
The most common questions tend to be around when and how to separate from your child on their first day of school. While their teacher will provide a significant amount of lee-way to parents on the first day, it is important for them, as well as the other children, that you make an expedient and early getaway.
It isn’t fair for you to stay around too long, especially after other parents have left, as you can be disruptive and other children might start wondering why their parents didn’t stay longer to play. Here are my top tips for how to leave the classroom and ensure your child is settled, happy and confident to see you go:
Tips for how to separate smoothly:
- Help your child get settled on an activity and make a friend before you leave
- Listen to your child’s concerns and discuss them together – don’t dismiss their worries as trivial
- Reassure your child that they will be safe in their new environment and that you (or someone they trust – be specific) will be around to pick them up when the day finishes
- When you are about to leave, tell your child and their teacher that you are going and who will pick them up after school
- Feel free to telephone the school during the day to check in on your child’s progress if you do have concerns
- This is crucial: follow through. Make sure you are there by the time school finishes, so that your child doesn’t need to be anxious or feel a sense of abandonment. If you are going to be late, inform the school so they can reassure your child.
- Having said that, ensure you do have an alternate plan in place, in case you are late. For example, perhaps your child would go to a friend’s house after school – but again, you do need to inform the school in advance, as well as your friend that will be expected to pick your child up. Don’t put the school in the awkward position of having to say ‘no’.