classroomIt is that time of year already! Here are a few tips for helping your child (and yourself) get ready for school.

First day advice:

Prepare for the initial good-bye, or “see ya later!” as I like to call it.

We typically see 4 types of families coming to school:

1-both parent and child say a quick and easy goodbye;
2-child says goodbye, but parent lingers a bit or gets teary, which can inadvertently upset the child;
3-parent says goodbye, but child is upset, which can in turn upset the parent;
4-both parent and child are upset and have a difficult separation.

Please know that regardless of which category you and your child fall into, it is OK! Your child’s teacher has seen it all, and is well prepared to deal with any situation. It is perfectly acceptable to leave your child if she is crying. Make sure a teacher is around, give that final hug and (as hard as it may be) head for the door. For this initial “see ya later,” it will help your child a lot if they see you react with confidence (even if it means you are in tears by the time you reach the end of the hall—which, again, is OK!). It can be as hard, if not harder, for parents to say “see ya later”;  however, if your child sees you upset, the chances are greater that she will get or stay upset. Many schools have some sort of first day momma tea (often using the phrase “boo-hoo” in some catchy title). Take advantage of it if you and your child have a difficult separation. This will give you a chance to interact with other moms (or dads) in the same situation, or talk to parents who have already been through it and are there to offer support. As tempting as it might be, DO NOT go back to check on your child! Give her time to adjust and get used to the new setting. And please know that about 95% of the time, if your child was in tears when you left, the tears stopped within 5 minutes (usually way less than that). If your child is in the small percentage that has a more difficult transition, your child’s teacher will let you know.

Before the first day advice:

  1. Develop a routine. While summer is a time for fun and new activities, try to stay as consistent as possible with sleeping and eating times in the weeks leading up to the start of school. Also, find out what sort of rest time your child’s school has. Most elementary schools do not have nap/rest time, so help your child prepare if that is the case.
  2. Help develop independence. Let your child take over some new responsibilities such as cleaning his room, packing his bag, helping with a younger sibling, clearing his place setting, etc. While walking your child to class on the first day is ok, don’t come in each day and unpack his bookbag. Let him develop the independence to complete these tasks on his own!
  3. Work on fine motor skills. Practice with pencils, crayons, paper, play-doh and especially scissors. Many parents think that if a child has been to a prior program (preschool, daycare, etc.) these skills are mastered, but often times they are not. The more proficient your child can be with these skills, the more confidence she will have in a classroom setting.
  4. Help your child to recognize and write at least his first name. Again, goes along with the confidence thing!
  5. Encourage your child to sit and complete a given activity in a specific time frame. If your child will be attending a traditional school setting, being able to sit and work, or sit and listen for at least 15 minutes is a very important skill. While most teachers of young students do not like for their students to sit for extended periods of time, there will be times when it is necessary. If your child has had practice sitting and working independently, the better prepared she will be!
  6. Don’t stress about the academic level at which your child enters school!  So often parents become very concerned about how their child is performing in relation to his peers. The academics will come. Students begin school at all different academic levels. Some students come in reading at 5 years old while others come in barely recognizing letters of the alphabet. Either way is OK! Your child will mature with these skills when he is ready and your child’s teacher will quickly realize where your child falls and do her best to push your child forward.

Please notice, most of these suggestions are not related directly to academic knowledge. Your child will spend the first few weeks of school learning a lot, both general academic knowledge, but also life skills, focusing largely on independence. Of course, please read (read and read some more!), write/draw stories, identify the alphabet, practice counting and making numbers, ask questions and seek answers, etc., but helping your child develop his independence is one of the best things you can do to help him prepare for school!