Preparing Your Child To Start School
My child will be attending school for the first time this fall. What can I do to make his transition as smooth as possible? I don't want my child to cry on the first day. I want him to be happy and love school.Congratulations! It is an exciting experience to have your child begin school.
Although separation is a normal part of the growth process, it can be a difficult experience for a young child (and even his parents.) He may cry when he actually leaves you. This is often the most difficult part. Once your child is actually in the classroom he will probably recover rather quickly. He may have difficulty coming in for many days or weeks. Allow your child's teacher to help you. It is not your goal to shield your child from feeling sad or even crying. It is your goal to teach your child to handle the feelings that come with going to school for the first time. Remember that this is an opportunity for your child to grow.
Before school starts, try to make the unfamiliar to feel familiar. Take your child to the school a few times before the official start of school. Drive by and mention that this is where his new school will be. Stop in if you can. Walk around, use the bathroom and meet the people who are there. If the school does not have a summer program, go the week before school starts. Teachers are usually there that week setting up. Do not expect the teachers to be available to spend a lot of time with you but you can usually feel the excitement and peek into the classroom.
Ask the school to tell you the name of your child's teacher. Then speak of the teacher casually by her name. "Miss Cathie will help you if you can't do your zipper."
Talk about the start of school with your child. Read books about children starting school. There are many children's books on this subject that can address a child's fears. Ask your children's librarian for a list of books on this topic. Even if the book is not about a Montessori school, it can help a child to realize that other children have felt the same uncertainty that he may be feeling. Speak positively about the school and your child's teacher. Do not allow your own anxiety to come through to your child. Tell your child matter-of-factly that he will meet many new children who will become his friends. He will do many new works and learn new things. His teacher is available to help him with anything he needs and you are excited about his starting school.
Attend all the meetings and orientations that the school has to offer before the start of school. Carefully read all information that comes to you from the school. This will answer many questions about the specific rules and procedures in your child's school. Are open-toed sandals allowed? May a child wear jewelry? What kind of food should be in his lunch? The more you know about the school the better you can facilitate your child's smooth transition to this new environment. Don't buy things unless you are sure they are appropriate for the school. For an example, we do not allow backpacks at the 3-6 level. Yet many parents have purchased and gotten their child excited about his new backpack only to be told that they are not allowed at our school.
Move the family to the school schedule well before school starts. For many families, summer schedules are often looser than those during the school year. Begin to adhere to regular bed times, wake up times, meal times and morning routines at least a week before the start of school. Then, the only new thing the first day of school is school itself. The Big Day Get to bed early. Get up early enough so the day does not feel rushed. Create a routine that you will use all year. Decide if your child will dress before or after breakfast. Provide your child with a healthy breakfast. Avoid sugar sweetened cereal and pastry. Lay out clothes the night before. Allow your child to pick from a choice of two outfits that are both acceptable to you. Refrain from watching any television before school? Get to school on time. It is very difficult to come to school late when all the other children are already there. Allow your child to walk into the building independently. If he is bringing things to school, his extra clothes, paperwork etc, allow the child to carry some of that too. This creates a climate of ownership for your child. Do the "leaving at the door" part of the routine matter-of-factly. Create a parting ritual that will last all year! For an instance, give your child one hug and one kiss and a positive comment such as "Have a great day!" as you send your child through the door. Many parents place an extra kiss in the child's palm in case they need it later in the day. This idea comes from the story The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. Create a climate of trust. Do not allow your child to become distracted and then sneak off. Be honest and upfront about what will happen and his part in it. Leave the building immediately. Do not hang around to see how he is doing. Do not look through the window or onto the playground. When a child senses that you are uncertain he learns that school is a place to fear rather than a place to embrace.
If you feel the need, call the school in 15 minutes to check on your child. This is a common practice in my school. If your child cries the second day remind him that he is just getting used to school and it is alright to feel sad but that he will have fun with his teacher-and his new friends. Remember that learning to separate is a process that may take time.
Maintain your positive outlook and your child's attitude will reflect yours. Have a wonderful year!
Last Updated (Thursday, 22 July 2010 13:07)