Experts say separation anxiety sets in before babies are a year old. Those experts clearly haven’t been at a bus stop with a kindergartner and her parents on the first day of school.
Starting school can elicit excitement and anxiety for both parent and child. Here are a few things you can do to make sure everyone survives the first-day jitters.
To help your child with first-time school jitters:
Familiarize your child with what’s to come, both what to expect in the general sense (classroom activities, the day to day schedule, etc.) and what the actual school is like. Visit the classroom and meet the teacher; that way on the first day your child won’t be stepping into the great unknown, and the teacher won’t be a menacing stranger but a familiar, friendly face.
Practice spending time apart by scheduling play dates with a trusted friend (dropping off your child and returning a short time later) or allowing him to go on solo outings with a grandparent or other relative. Try sending him to your church’s Sunday school or signing him up for swim lessons or day camp over the summer, something to help him grow more confidently independent — and help you grow more comfortable with loosening the apron strings.
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Let your child know it’s normal to feel anxious about starting school and being away from home. Be supportive and encouraging; don’t wave away his concerns with talk about how he’s a “big boy now,” as that trivializes his emotions and can make it harder for him to communicate about his feelings in the future.
To help you with first-time school jitters:
Watching your little one step onto a school bus for the very first time can be tough. The realization that they’re getting older and more independent is difficult for any parent to swallow, no matter how proud you are of his accomplishment.
To help you make that leap with first day of school:
Familiarize yourself with the school and the teacher. Make sure you’re as comfortable in your child’s new surroundings as he is.
The Lowcountry Child School Activities Guide
A multi-page PDF with fun games, activities and important contact sheet to keep at home.
Volunteer your time and talents.
Most schools rely on parents to support their educational efforts, and becoming involved as a PTA member, room mom or field trip chaperone will allow you to stay even more actively involved in your child’s day, and in their education.
Appreciate your child’s milestone of finishing first day of school.
Starting school doesn’t just mean the end of something, it means the beginning of many wonderful things too. Recognize that this is an exciting time in your child’s life; many doors are about to be opened in his mind, his social network and his everyday experiences with the world around him.
The first day is the hardest for both of you, so try to make it special to keep your minds occupied and positive. Make a special breakfast, tuck a note in with her lunch, and decorate the dining room with a “Welcome home Big Girl!” sign while she’s gone. Before long the whole thing will become routine and you both will have weathered this transition well.