First Day Jitters
As families prepare their students for the school season, educators weigh in on best practices for managing the transition back to school.
Get into a routine
Before school starts, adjust your child’s bedtime and wake them up five to 10 minutes earlier each day leading up to the first day. Also, post a morning task chart.
“By making a visual schedule, kids know what is expected and check off the pictures or word phrases as they do each one,” says Tara Walrod, a school counselor.
Log in to school’s website. “Most districts post everything from PTA information to upcoming events to curriculum information and even videos and power points,” says Steve Cook, a director of curriculum and instruction.
Orient your child
"Schedule a school tour with the school counselor or principal if you are new to the community or if your child has special needs, which can heighten their sense of anxiety." advises fifth grade teacher Anne Braun.
Listen to your child’s concerns about the upcoming year. Offer strategies to help them work through them. “If they are worried about making new friends, act out how to approach someone new or start a new conversation,” Gafney says.
Hash out transportation details with your child before school starts. If you plan to drive your child to school, do a dry run. “Make sure your child is getting out of the correct side of the car, can shut the door themselves, and knows where the front door is located,” recommends Jessica Adair, a school counselor.
Consider health matters
To help your child stay healthy throughout the year, make sure they get adequate rest and stay hydrated.
Many parents walk their kids in on the first day of school. After that, encourage your child to walk to class on their own to help them build a sense of independence and responsibility.
Celebrate the first day
Many families take photos in the same place every year. Others plan first day celebrations by visiting the ice cream counter or a favorite restaurant or picnic with other families at a nearby playground.
Manage through bad days
“Listen and empathize. Be careful not to jump in too quickly or overreact to what is really a small problem or conflict,” Walrod advises. Instead, encourage creative problem solving.
Connect with teachers
“Every educator wants every child to literally RUN to school because they can’t wait to be there,” Watson says. “When that isn’t the case, we want to work with you to try and figure out how we can work together to help lower your chid’s anxiety and get into learning.” Share your child’s interests and hobbies to help teachers zero in on what gets your student excited about learning.