This is the season for new beginnings. The crisp air lends itself to a fresh start and the shorter days promote a sense of getting back to work. There is an impending call to order out of the lazy, chaotic days of summer. Fresh school supplies and a back to school outfit set the scene for a brand new school year. However, this time can invoke jitters among children, especially for first time schoolers. Here are a few ways to ease the transition.
Be mindful that anxiety may stem from the parent. It is difficult to say goodbye and hand child care over for the first time. Some say this can be harder on you! Make sure the school is a good fit for both you and your child. Prepare before the year begins by reading books about school. Spend a few hours at the school together to familiarise with the environment. If you are confident, your child will sense the calm and feel secure. It is important to stay positive and upbeat. Explain how the day will go, what to expect and when they will be picked up.
Empathise with your child. Often it is hard for children to be away from caregivers for a full day. Separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood development. They have to grasp a new set of rules, navigate authority figures and form a sense of belonging. It takes time to establish community and set a new routine. The first day may be a breeze, but once the excitement wears off and the reality sets in that this is the new norm, the following days can be a bit more challenging. Expect regression and give extra love to your Little during this acclimation time.
Stick to your schedules. This is the time to enforce a bedtime ritual to make sure your child gets a good night sleep to wake up rested and on time. A morning routine should always start with a healthy breakfast. Incorporate your little ones help in preparing lunches and filling backpacks with the necessities required for the day. Once at school, keep your goodbye short and sweet. The longer you drag it out, the harder it will be on everyone. Teachers need this time to establish trust with the child and parents tend to get in the way. Think of it like ripping off a Band Aid. Something simple and sweet like “See you later alligator!” A kiss and a hug, see you at 3:00 and scoot out as quick as possible.
Keep your connection through the day by leaving a short note or a family photo in your child's pocket or lunch box. A reward at the end of the week like an ice cream, a trip to the park or family movie night gives them something to look forward to. This can become a family tradition that lasts for years.
Trust they are in good care. Many children put on theatrics to torture the parents and quickly settle in once they leave. If you are concerned, check in with the teachers during the day with a phone call or email. Most children are fine once parents out of sight. If drop off has not improved after several weeks, reevaluate if the school is a good fit, but do give it time. Some children take longer to acclimate and need space to adjust to a new routine. Trust your instincts and remember to celebrate their journey toward independence.