When it comes to going to school for the first time, kids and parents have lots of concerns. From your child's fear of the new classroom to concerns about making friends, this exciting time can quickly become stressful. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, some of the most important things parents can do to help children adjust to school are keeping things positive and expressing excitement for school. Here’s a few tips on addressing you and your child’s worries.
Worry 1: He won't adjust to being in a strange place.
Help calm your child's nerves about entering a new, and to her, a potentially scary environment by visiting the preschool before school starts. "Ideally the parent and child will meet the teacher prior to the start of school," says Derek Montgomery, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Bradley University. "A positive parent-teacher relationship can really help the transition by reducing the anxiety and fear children may have toward the teacher."
Worry 2: She'll freak out when it's time for me to leave.
You can talk your child's ear off about how great school will be, but when it comes time to say sayonara there is still a chance she will she choke up and not want you to go. Take control of goodbyes by practicing them before the big day and helping your child figure out a ritual you'll do when it's time to part. This can be a hug and three kisses, an Eskimo kiss on the nose or a special phrase you might say. When the big goodbye comes, make it short and sweet and don't let it drag out.
Worry 3: I'll break down when it's time to leave.
Do everything you can to keep it together in front of your child. "Children can read it when we're nervous," says Diane Peters Mayer author of Overcoming School Anxiety: How to Help Your Child Deal With Separation, Tests, Homework, Bullies, Math Phobia, and Other Worries. "Parents need to learn to calm themselves with types of belly breathing, looking in the mirror to learn how to soften their faces, and if all else fails, just think of something really funny. When you smile, your whole body relaxes."
Worry 4: He'll miss us.
Yes, he loves you, but don't automatically assume your child is going to have a hard time adjusting to being away from you at school. Montgomery notes that kids who have developed self-control and peer-related social skills can have an easier time adjusting to school than those who lack these skills. Focus on developing these traits in your child, rather than talking to him about how it will be okay to be away from mommy and daddy when he's at school. You'll help him develop the skills he needs and not set him on a track to develop anxiety by thinking that going to school really is a big deal.
Worry 5: He won't make friends.
Sharing and playing collaboratively are huge in preschool. Some children, especially those who are shy may need some addition encouragement to become involved. Help ensure your child will have the social skills to play nice and make friends by setting up play dates with other children in the program before school starts.
Worry 6: He won't cooperate with the teacher.
If you're worried about your rambunctious child listening to the teacher, lay some groundwork. Read books aloud to him at home just as the teacher will at school, and if he gets up and walks away or interrupts, remind him that you are reading and that you would like him to sit quietly and listen.
Worry 7: He won't learn what he's supposed to.
Many of the skills children will pick up in preschool revolve around social skills and developing fine and gross motor skills. A lot of the time, they will pick up these valuable skills from just playing with others. Sure, some "academic" skills will be learned as well, but don't dwell on these. "Parents should remember there's a lot of variability among preschool-age children," notes Montgomery. "They shouldn't panic if their child seems 'behind'. Worrying can be counterproductive."