There are many ways you can prepare your child emotionally for the big day in advance of the first day of school. There are also steps you can take to prepare for some of the practical day to day challenges.
What To Wear
Many children are not in an 'up and at 'em' mind set when they first wake up and it can be frustrating for both the child and parent to try to get your child to independently dress themselves on time for school.
In the summer, many kids have gotten used to not immediately dressing when they first wake up and so now is a good time to start making sure the first step they do is get dressed.
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Letting them pick through whatever they have, willy nilly isn't going to help. Have you ever seen a young child trying to make up their mind? It can be an intense (AKA frustrating) process.
It's best to get them to help you pick out a some outfits for the next few days and together, pack them in a hanging bag such as this Honey-Can-Do 8 Shelf Hanging Organizer. This 8-shelf unit is perfect for all days of the week, with one left for accessories.
Your child can help label the bag with the days of the week using a variety of these Mabel's Labels that you can personalize yourself. If you know Tues. is going to be show and tell day at school, for example, you can make a sticker to reflect that and put it the 'Tuesday' organizer section.
Visual reminders for kids are helpful and help to keep some excitement going. By the time they get to high school, things change
a bit - but that's a whole other story!
Where Am I Going?
As adults, we research vehicle and bus routes for our own appointments, why not do the same with your child? Let them go over the plans with you, view the maps online see how long it will take you to get to school using Google maps.
You can even print a map and have your child help guide you to school for the next step! They can take a crayon along and mark the route as you go. If they'll be taking a school bus, you can look that up online and show them the bus route.
You'll want to go through the school's website to show your child all of the fun pics. that are shown of the kids, as well as view features that your school has to offer. Even if you already had an orientation at your school with your child, having an additional visual will be a great source of reassuring them that school will be a fun place.
Without having clear visuals, it's easy for your child to start envisioning other scenarios in their mind so this strategy helps them to form a more tangible concept of what their own experience may be like.
"What If I Miss You??"
The Kissing Hand, by Audry Penn was a book my daughter and I loved. It's a wonderful story that many parents through the years have been using to help prepare their children for heading off to school for the first time.
Besides reading the story often to my daughter, when she was 4 years old and just heading to Kindergarten I used to kiss the back of her hand after my lipstick had been applied, before leaving to go to school. You could barely see it on her hand but she knew it was there and years later she has told me what a comfort it had been for her.
Fun School Supplies
Some schools at a younger age won't require that your child bring in school supplies, but a fun backpack and lunchbox can keep the excitement level up, especially if they're only allowed to start using them at school when they go. (The same goes for new school clothes. I would start them wearing those when school starts, and in the practice run mentioned below.) Check out some cool backpacks and lunch kits in the clickable links.
Kids often have difficulties with keeping track of time. There is a watch coming out in 2017 for this very thing that may prove to be very useful, especially for those kids who may be on the autism spectrum. (For them it could prove to be even more challenging, depending on the individual.)
What the dry run will help with, is getting your child to see the timing involved. Try to have 1 or 2 'school' days in advance of the school year.
- Have your child set an alarm clock with you, wake up on time, get dressed in their new school clothes, eat a quick healthy breakfast such as a smoothie, pack up the backpack (the night before of course), put the lunch (also packed the night before) in the backpack.
- Go for a drive to the school. Remember they will want to take their map. (Unless you live across the street, in which case they will think you're crazy.) If you're lucky, the automated bells/buzzers at the school will still be on and you can hear them from outside when you get there.
- Many schools play Canada's National Anthem in the morning before school starts and it could be a good idea to listen to that if they are not that familiar with it. Let them know that they may be asked to stand up straight and very still and either listen to it or sing it, depending on school policy.
- Eat your lunch with your child at the school lunch time. They'll enjoy eating lunch out of their new lunch kit. When it's 'home time' on the dry run day , you can bring that to your child's attention so they can get a better sense of how long a school day is.
Really, the idea of these tips is to raise some awareness for your child(ren) and generate excitement over school. It would be almost impossible to feel really excited and anxious simultaneously, so the idea is to focus on that new found excitement to help edge out the anxiety in the process.
Of course, some anxiety will still prevail and it's important to let your child converse with you about their fears and ideas about school. They'll feel so much better once they understand someone is listening to them.
Soon your child will be asking how many sleeps before they 'get to go to school'? It's a helpful way for you to be phrasing it at home, too.
Don't forget to pack Kleenex in your purse or pocket. You're gonna' need it for yourself.
If this isn't your first rodeo and you already have some great tips under your belt from sending your kids to school, tell us about them! Our readers will want to know.