As your little one’s first day at school draws closer, you find yourself assailed with all sorts of mixed feelings. There is pride, there is a bitter-sweet feeling of the baby growing up, and there is excitement and anticipation. Yet, there are also doubts, there is trepidation, and considerable anxiety as well.
How will my baby manage? Will she cry? Will she mix up with other kids? Will it be a traumatic experience for him? How are his classmates? Will the teacher be able to understand when he is hungry? It is understandable that hundreds of questions must be hounding you… a child’s first day at school always creates anxiety, especially in mums!
However, instead of getting worked up, try and prepare your little one for his first day in school? Let us look at some things we can do to ensure that the transition to school is as smooth as possible for the child:
Talk to them about school
Constantly keep talking to your child about school. Talk not only about how he is going to be a ‘big boy’ now, or how he will love going to school, but also about what to anticipate. Make sure these conversations are casual and fun-filled.
Tell him that there will be other kids to play with, that the teacher will give them fun things to do, that there will be plenty of toys and so on. This subtly prepares the child about what to expect, and the better prepared a child is, the easier the transition is for him.
Talk about feelings
Ask him how he feels about going to school—is he excited? Scared? Looking forward to it? Worried? Whatever his feelings, reassure him that it’s natural to feel this way, as it is a new experience.
Three-year-old Rohan was worried about going to school as he thought that it would make Mummy strict and stop loving him. He had seen his mother taking up his brother’s studies, and lot of arguments happening over it. He assumed it would be the same for him. To avoid these kinds of misconceptions with your child, encourage him to share his expectations, ideas and assumptions about school. You can then clarify and explain as necessary.
Share funny, amusing first-time-at-school experiences of people familiar to the child. This helps the child realise that he is not the only one going through this experience, there have been others, and that every child has a unique experience.
Create a countdown calendar
Mark the date of the child’s first day with bright, bold colours. Encourage him to start a countdown, marking off each day as it passes along. This will help build anticipation and excitement in the child about school.
If possible, take the child to the school premises a couple of days in advance. Familiarise him with the school building, and if possible, the class room.
Discuss change in routine
If he is a late sleeper and has morning school, make the change in routine a gradual process rather than a sudden thing. Alternately, if he is used to sleeping in the afternoon, and has afternoon school, gradually reduce his nap time so that by the time the school starts, his system is ready and prepared for it.
Discuss travel plans
Inform the child about who will drop/pick her up from school. If he is going to travel by the school bus/auto/car pool, you need to prepare him for that as well.
Involve the child in all school-related activities
Discuss books; involve him in the buying of uniforms, shoes and raincoats so that he already feels involved in the routine.
The key thing is to increase the child’s comfort level with the idea of school. Do this in every way you can. Remember, the more the child feels familiar about school, and all that is going to be part of it, the more ready she will feel to face the challenge ahead.
Lastly, despite everything, be prepared for tears and tantrums for the first few days. It’s natural and normal, and many children go through spells of crying and howling before they eventually settle down, quite happily, with school.