Whether your little one is getting ready to attend preschool or kindergarten, their first time going to school can be very stressful! They’re about to enter a space that they have no previous experience with, and they’ll have to do so without their parents, for hours at a time. No wonder it seems scary! But there are some great things that you can do to help your child prepare for their first day of school, and to help them face it with confidence.
Visit The School Ahead of Time
One of the reasons that going to school for the first time can be so stressful is that your child has no idea what to expect. They’ve never been to school before! Many preschools and kindergartens have open house events prior to the start of school, allowing parents and children to come to the school. This allows kids to see the school building, inside and out, and sometimes to meet their teacher. Both of these things can help children understand at least part of what to expect, making the school building and their new teacher and caretaker more familiar to them.
Talk About Going to School
Give your child time and space to talk about going to school. They may express feelings of fear and doubt, and that’s okay! This is a normal thing to be afraid of! Listen to your child’s concerns, and answer their questions. Let them know that it’s okay to be unsure, and that you’re there to help them talk through some of those feelings.
Knowing that they can talk to you about these things will help them know that they’re supported during this time of transition, and will allow them to explore those normal feelings in healthy ways.
Read a Book About Going to School
One of the ways that children (and adults!) learn best is through storytelling. Hearing stories about others going to school, even fictional characters, can help little kids understand what to expect, and to understand that their feelings are normal. These stories will also help them anticipate a good outcome to this new adventure.
Here are several books about going to the first day of school that you and your child can read together!
Practice Getting Ready Each Morning
Children thrive on routines. Routines provide structure that allows children to feel safer and more secure. With routines, they understand what to expect and gain the skills that make them feel more confident in facing challenges.
Starting school often means a change in their routines.Getting your child ready for this change by starting those routines a couple of weeks before school starts can help them cope with this big change. This may mean getting up at a certain time, getting washed and dressed right away, and getting their school things together. Help your child accomplish these tasks until they know what their new routine is. It will make the change less scary.
Act Out School Activities
Acting out new or scary experiences can help your children understand what to expect. This is similar to reading stories about these experiences, but it gives your child some agency in the situation, allowing them to become an active participant. Acting out these activities with a lovey or cherished stuffed animal can improve your child’s comfort level with these activities.
You can act out typical school activities, like coloring, snack time, and nap time. You can also act out some more personal experiences, like your stuffed animal being without their parent for the first time, or meeting other stuffed animals for the first time.
Take Them School Shopping
Getting some new things can help make school a thing to look forward to, lessening the stress and uncertainty of starting a new phase in life.
Picking up any new supplies that your child might need, including markers, crayons, etc, can help your child anticipate using these fun tools. New clothes can help them feel more socially confident. A new backpack or lunchbox or water bottle can help them mentally prepare for being away from the home for the first time.
Allow Your Child to Take Their Lovey With Them
Finally, bringing a good friend with them can help them feel more confident and less alone. Your child’s lovey is the perfect friend to take with them to their first classroom experience.
One of the reasons that children attach to comfort objects is to use them as a way to self-soothe. When a child uses a lovey to self-soothe, they’re also learning the skills that they need to eventually internalize those skills. Many preschools will allow children to bring loveys or special stuffed animals to school with them, and doing so will help your child manage their feelings of fear and uncertainty.
If your child’s lovey is too big or unwieldy to easily take to school, our Bye Bye Buddies lovies are designed to be easy to transport and difficult to lose!
So there you go! Going to school for the first time is scary, but there are easy ways that we can prepare children for this big change. Make sure to involve your child in this transition, and they’ll be set up to succeed at their new school!