As summer break comes to an end and the new school year begins, you may be notice tension or uneasiness from your little ones. For children just starting school (preschool or kindergarten) or for those heading into a new school environment, the countdown to the first day can be overwhelming.
Nerves are normal
Explain to your child that it's okay to feel big feelings. Having a new teacher, a new class, and possibly a new school, can feel like a lot. Ask your little one about their fears and help them come up with a plan of what to do if their fears become reality. Role-play the plan you come up with, ensuring they feel more prepared to handle tough situations. See what excites them about starting school, and remind them of times they have overcome fears in the past.
Participate in back-to-school activities
Many schools have a back-to-school event before the first day, allowing kids to meet their new teacher, visit their new classroom, and potentially see familiar faces of classmates. Join this activity if you can! Allow your child to have a visual of what to expect. Not an option at your school? Try to arrange a meet-up before the first day to calm your child's worries, especially if your kiddo struggles with transitions.
Talk about the schedule
Before the first day, talk with your child about their new schedule. If change is difficult for your little one, set up a visual schedule. Uses pictures or drawings to help set the stage for what to expect. For example: wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth and hair, coat/backpack on, drive to school, and walk into class. To help them know what to expect, you can also get them up and take on practice runs before the first day.
Send your child to school with something familiar
Use something that your child finds comfort in at home, small enough to fit in their backpack. Explain if they feel worried, they can look in their backpack and know that a piece of home is with them. Use your child's favorite Slumberkin to help with the nerves. Hedgehog would be a great backpack buddy for a child.
**Please be sure to follow all of your school's rules and regulations. If your kiddo is allowed to have a ‘fidget’ at their desk, Hedgehog is a perfect fit as a hand-sized friend to ease worries that come up throughout the day.
For the kids who are very outgoing and excited for the first day of school, give them a special task. Challenge them to reach out to others who look nervous or shy. Role-play inviting a friend to join-in at recess or helping a child who is timid to join group activities.
Authenticity is best
There is no better person to be than yourself! Remind your child of all the wonderful qualities they have, what makes them special, and how much fun it will be to meet new friends who have similar and different qualities.
Kicking off the school year can be a great time to incorporate new routines. Consider adding or revising daily affirmations. These are good to do as part of a morning schedule to set kiddos up for success as they embark on their day. Affirmations can empower your little one and encourage them to embrace new adventures in the classroom and on the playground.
Some of our favorite back-to-school affirmations:
I am safe. I am loved. Even if we are far apart, I'll keep you with me, held here in my heart.
- Hartley's Affirmation
I am true to myself. I let my light shine. I can be who I am. That's for me to define.
- Unicorn's Affirmation
I am kind. I am strong, I am brave and unique. The world if better because I am here. I like me.
- Bigfoot's Affirmation
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my daughter never had to experience emotional distress and I could just take it away, poof, abracadabra? One of the hardest things by far about being a parent is seeing our children in pain and we could instantly ease it. Seeing them sad, hurt, or at the will of an overpowering feeling like anger or anxiety triggers great discomfort in most parents and causes us to spring into action and employ our favorite “fix it” response.
The truth is, we humans are feeling machines. It’s not realistic to protect our children from emotional pain, or take it away for them. In fact, our attempts to do so may be sending a message that whatever feeling they are experiencing in that moment needs to shift, doesn’t belong or is just plain “wrong”. Maybe we minimize, distract, dismiss, rescue, or punish with the hope that the emotional upset will be short-lived. We may celebrate and encourage positive emotions, while suppressing negative expression of emotions or viewing it as a problem to be solved.