Transitioning To School – Tips For Parents Of School-Age Children

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Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, preparing for the first day of school each year can be worrisome. Parents anticipate the big day for the first few years of a child’s life, and then again each year their child actually attends school! The start of school is an exciting, fun and often anxious time for the whole family. Here are some tips to help ensure this school year begins smoothly and easily for everyone:

Rest Up: Hectic summer schedules can make a swift transition into the classroom difficult. Make sure you mark the first day of school on your calendar well in advance, and start balancing a more “normal” schedule at least a week prior. The “normal” schedule I’m suggesting includes having a consistent bedtime and a morning wake-up routine that gives your child the rest required and consistency needed to transition smoothly come the first day of school.

Communicate: I’m a strong advocate of open communication. The first day of school can have a large impact on your child’s emotional state. He might have anxiety about navigating the hallways, making new friends, or leaving you for the first time. Have discussions with your child about the first day of school and what to expect. Go over the school schedule together, and be sure to give your child the opportunity to express his thoughts and concerns. 

Encourage: As many of us do, your child might need a bit of extra encouragement on the first day of school. Get up with your child and have a healthy and hearty breakfast together before leaving for school. Put a note of encouragement in your child’s lunchbox, backpack or binder to let him know you’re behind him 100%. If your child is attending school for the very first time, let him take a photo or something special and comforting with him that he can hold onto when he’s feeling sad, scared or lonely. Whatever you do, make sure your child knows you’re a proud parent.

Be a Joiner: Sometimes, the best way to make friends is to be a joiner. We all know this is not everyone’s cup of tea. Sit down with your child ahead of time to decide what kinds of activities he’s interested in participating in during the year ahead. Be careful not to overwhelm your child with too many activities. Start by picking just one or two things, and go from there. Find out if there are kids in your neighborhood who attend the same school. Maybe you can carpool together or set up a play date prior to the start of the school year … that way your child will have a friend at school before entering the classroom. 

Find the Right School: This is an important step whether your child is starting high school, middle school, elementary or preschool. Not every school is the same. Spend time learning about the schools in your area and determine which are right for you and your child. I suggest narrowing it down to your top three choices, then calling to set up an appointment to visit each school. Some parents will bring their child along and let them help make the final decision. Other parents choose the school, then set up another appointment for their child to become familiar with the school and its environment. 

Separation is Hard. Stay Cool: One of the hardest things about sending your child off to school is the separation anxiety that can come when you turn to walk away. Many children are used to being with their mom or dad all day long, and starting school changes that completely, especially for little ones. Again, giving your child something special to keep in his pocket that reminds him of you can be a comfort throughout the day. I’ve also seen many parent/child rituals take place at elementary or preschool doors – those include special songs, handshakes, kisses and rhymes. 

The first day of school should be exciting and fun. When in doubt, simply be there for your child and encourage him to do his very best. You’ve got this! 

Robert Nickell
About Robert Nickell

Robert Nickell (aka Daddy Nickell) is a father of seven, parenting expert, and the founder of Daddy & Co. delivery room duds and daddy gifts and apparel for all stages of fatherhood (daddyncompany.com). He is also the creator and producer of “My Life As A Dad” web series, showcasing celebrity fathers offering their personal experiences and parenting tips (mylifeasadad.com).

Comments

  1. Working parents sometimes feel left out of the loop when it comes to getting involved at their kids’ school. It can often times be difficult to volunteer in the classroom during normal school hours, however, there are several ways parents can get involved and get to know their child’s teacher.

    • Serving as a committee chair person at your school’s PTO can help parents feel connected to their child’s teacher and class. Having a voice in school year activities and providing support for the teacher is always welcomed.

    • If time is really tight, serve as a committee member to help provide snacks or administrative support for the classroom. Getting ready for back to school night or parent teacher conferences can be a hectic time for educators and any additional help is always appreciated.

    • Having enough chaperones for after-school activities is a struggle. Sign up to help the Booster Club with sock-hops, car washes or other fund raising activities. There is always a place to serve and get involved when it comes to providing programs for active kids.

    The more interest you take in your kid’s education, the more enthusiastic they will be about joining in the fun and taking part in extra-circular activities.

  2. how do you “get to know” the schools? some parents work and cant go into classrooms to observe….

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