When September rolls around, you have a lot of things to take care of before school starts. But don't forget that getting your children ready for the first day goes beyond buying their clothes and organizing their carpool schedules — they need to be mentally and emotionally prepared too, especially if this is their first time at a new school. If they're nervous or stressed when they step into the classroom, they'll have a harder time enjoying the new things they're learning. Try these tips, and help them step confidently into a new school year.
- Visit your child's new school before the first day. See if you can meet the teacher, principal, and school nurse. Tour the building so she knows where key places are located, such as the bathroom, gym, library/media center, and cafeteria.
- Shop for school supplies together. Give him a budget and let him choose his backpack, lunch box, and other school stuff from the supply list. He'll feel proud to be making important decisions, and he'll look forward to the first day, when he can try out all his new gear.
- Help her write a letter or draw a picture to give to her teacher on the first day to introduce herself. You may want to send the teacher a note too, letting her know about any home issues that may impact learning such as an ill family member or recent loss of a pet or loved one. If the issues are especially serious, make an appointment with the teacher so that the two of you can talk them over.
- Learn the rules. Ask for a copy of the school handbook and make sure he understands the school rules — what he can and can't bring to class; when he can eat, play, or talk; how he should get the teacher's attention; and what the bathroom procedures are.
- Discuss what you'll be doing when she's in school. Reassure her that you have plenty to keep you busy and look forward to meeting her when school's over.
- Cut down on first-morning frenzy by having everything ready ahead of time. Pack your child's lunch, help him pick out a favorite outfit the night before, and lay out all his clothes and supplies so that he can grab them first thing in the morning. Don't forget socks, underwear, and shoes if you want to avoid a last-minute scramble. In addition to reducing your stress level, getting-ready routines will help your child to become a better student.
- Ease into a school-friendly schedule. If your child's been staying up late all summer, encourage her to go to bed and get up early at least two weeks before school starts. When the first day rolls around, getting up in time will be a snap.
- Find a friend. If any of your child's friends from the neighborhood will be going to the same school, arrange for her to walk to the bus with them or organize a carpool — your child will see school as a fun social opportunity. If she doesn't know anyone, plan a play date with one of her future classmates, so that when school starts she'll already see at least one familiar face.
- Get to school early on the first few days. Your child will have plenty of time to settle in and get used to the classroom before the hustle and bustle of the school day begins. He might even have time for a reassuring one-on-one chat with his teacher. By the time the day officially starts, he'll feel like he owns the place — or at least he'll feel that it's a place where he belongs.