Preparing Little Ones to Start School
Tips from a school psychologist and teachers.
You can never fully prepare yourself or your child for the first time you wave goodbye at the classroom door. You can, however, ease the transition for both of you by taking steps to make it a more positive experience. If that first day is coming soon, check out this advice from the experts.
Tips from the School Psychologist
Ellen Kelty, manager of the department of social work and psychological services at Denver Public Schools, suggests anticipating how you and your child will react. “Some kids won’t look back when you drop them off, but others will need more encouragement as they learn to adjust,” she says. From there, Kelty recommends taking these steps:
- Incorporate school into play. “Play going to school. Let your child be the teacher. Line up stuffed animals to be the students, and let your child explore.”
- Practice makes perfect. “If a child hasn’t spent much time away from home, practice being away by scheduling time with a babysitter or grandparent.”
- Give your child choices. “Ask small things like, which outfit will you wear your first day? Anything helps that gives them some control over some circumstances.”
Tips from the Teachers
Jenny Rice, a kindergarten and second grade teacher, and Millie Greer, a retired preschool teacher, share these tips from inside the classroom.
- Meet the teacher before schools starts. Often a five-minute conversation with the teacher in a calm, quiet environment can dispel fears. “Encourage your child to draw pictures or write letters to the upcoming teacher,” says Rice. “Make an ‘all about me” poster to give to the teacher so they know your child better.”
- Ask for your child’s daily schedule. “Then go overboard talking about what your child can expect. Ask what they are excited about and what they are nervous about. Make a plan to help calm those nerves,” says Rice.
- Don’t linger at drop off. “Start by helping your child connect with another child or activity. After a few minutes say you’re leaving, give your child a hug, and excitedly tell him or her to have a great day,” says Greer.
- Remind your child that you’ll be back to pick them up. “Leave with a big smile on your face, which conveys you’re not concerned and you have confidence in your child’s ability to handle things,” says Greer.
- Let the teacher know you’re nervous, too. It’s okay to ask the teacher to check in with you. “I always tried to send an email sometime during the day letting them know how their child’s day was going,” says Rice.
Once school has started, if serious anxiety lasts longer than three to four weeks, get help. “Remember that young students mostly live in the moment,” says Kelty. “If your child is becoming overly worried and anxious, it may be time to ask for help.”