Easing those ‘first day of school’ jitters

The first day of school. For some kids, it’s a very exciting day; they just walk through the school doors and never look back. But a good number of children are worried about this new experience and about what to expect.

For children who have gone to playgroup or daycare, the anxiety about the ‘first day’ may be something they’ve already experienced. However, actually going to school for the first time may bring different worries. Talking to your child about what he is feeling and what he can look forward to will help him come to grips with what lies ahead.

Ask your child what he is thinking and if he has questions. Explain what happens during a typical day of school. Try to find out if he is afraid of anything so you can help ease some of fears. Some children worry about what will be expected of them so remind your child that he won’t have to learn everything overnight.

Use positive words to encourage him; you might even tell him about your first day of school. Emphasize any school activities you know will be enjoyable, for example, "Well, you love books and there will be a reading session every morning."

Prior to the first day of class, you can visit the school or even ask you if you could go on a tour. Some schools will let you see the classrooms and other facilities such as the gym, bathroom, or playground. Ask ahead if your child’s teacher or the principal will be there.
Here are 10 practical tips to help your child have a great first day at school:

Here are 10 practical tips to help your child have a great first day at school:

  1. Go over a typical school day so they know what to expect.
  2. Tell them they are not alone in feeling worried about school and that many other children in their class will be nervous too.
  3. Go over the route to school so that your child understands where it is in relation to home.
  4. If you won’t be picking your child up from school, go over the after-school routine (e.g. someone else will pick you up; an after-school program) until he understands it fully.
  5. Start a ‘school day’ routine about one week ahead of time so your child is use to getting up early and having breakfast at the same time every day.
  6. Get your child involved in buying his uniform (if required) and school supplies (if the list is available ahead of time).
  7. Prepare what will be needed (e.g. clothing or uniform, schoolbag) a day or two ahead of time.
  8. If your child will be taking lunch to school, prepare it the night before.
  9. Make sure to take a few photos or record a video to remember the day.
  10. Don’t forget yourself in all the preparations! If you’re a little worried about how your child will handle the first day, make sure to talk with your spouse or your friends about it.