First Days of School: Easing the Jitters

Summer begins its move toward hibernation as millions of children and their parents prepare for the first day of school. Whether it's a child's first day of kindergarten, or his first day of high school, the beginning of a school year brings with it a flurry of emotions that at times can be overwhelming. Parents are not immune to this anxiety, either. Taking steps to ease everyone's first day of school jitters is easy and fun.

In the weeks leading up to your child's first day of school, engage your child in activities that he enjoys doing with you, such as reading, taking long walks, doing puzzles, and playing board games. Take advantage of your time together to chat about the upcoming school year, and invite your child to ask questions or express concerns. Remind your child that although he'll be at school on weekdays, you still have the evenings and weekends to do things together. Some children feel anxious at the thought of being separated from their parents for the length of a school day, particularly kindergartners. Soothing messages that instill confidence and convey reassurance will help your child feel better about spending several hours in a new environment without you. "Would you like to help me make cookies when you get home from school tomorrow? We can talk about your day while we make them," and "I'll be waiting for you right outside the school gate when school gets out," are gentle reminders that you care.

Parents sometimes need reassurance, too. Chat with other parents who have children at the school to share experiences, as well as anxieties. Attend any orientations or parent organization meetings that take place before the school year starts to meet other parents, as well as school staff members. Schedule an appointment with the school principal to learn more about her vision for the school. If possible, arrange a meeting with your child's teacher. Most importantly, relax and enjoy the excitement. Your child's school year will fly by with all of the field trips, projects, and learning going on in the classroom.

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