A new year means for many families that a new beginning is just around the corner – school. If you’re wondering how to cope with the first day of school – both for you as a parent and for your kids, then read on, as we have asked the experts for their top tips…
How To Cope With The First Day Of School – Top Tips
By Andrew Oberthur, Speaker & Presenter – Creative Collaborative Solutions
The first day of school, especially for first-time parents can be as exciting and daunting for the adults as it can be for the children. So here are some ideas to make the first day of school successful for parents and children, which should make it successful for teachers as well.
Before day one parents and children need to be ready. The children must have tried on their uniform including their shoes (Velcro or laces – whatever works for you, while following the school rules). (tip for parents – wash the uniform before the first day as it will soften the stiffness of the new clothes).
Have lunches planned and even make them the night before. Make sure the child has tried opening any prepacked food and their new lunch box. This will give them confidence and independence on the first day at lunch breaks. Schoolbag should be packed the night before, with all resources the child is taking to school and make sure all belongings are clearly named (ideally the child should be able to recognise their name).
All conversations in the days leading up to the first day should be positive, with a sense of anticipation about all the good things that will happen on the first day – meeting new friends, meeting their teacher, new playground and lots of fun learning.
The night before – early to bed, with uniform, bag, and lunch ready.
The first day of school has arrived.
It is good to acknowledge the variety of emotions that the child may be feeling. Nervous, excited, scared, wondering are all perfectly normal emotions. Now here’s the catch – the children will feed off the parents’ emotions so parents – game face on. Parents must appear calm and in control, despite feeling nervous, excited, scared, and wondering. Parents must be smiling and encouraging.
It is best if children carry their own bags into school (please!!). If the children are big enough to go to school they are big enough to carry their own bags. If their bags are full of resources they may be quite heavy so assist them if necessary. (From day 2 onwards all children should carry their own bags to and from school).
Parents, please ensure when you arrive at school you walk your child into school, meet the teacher and get the child settled. Ensure your child knows where you will meet them after school and remind them that you will be back at the end of the school day. And then parents you have to quietly walk away with a reassuring smile and wave.
At this point some parents will shed a tear, often first-time parents, so go and have a coffee with some other parents and share stories. If the school offers a cuppa for parents, take advantage and meet other parents.
At the end of the day some important tips. Have some food in the car as the children may be hungry. The children will also be exhausted so they may fall asleep before dinner. Before they ‘crash’ for the night ask them questions and let them answer, so wait and listen. Open-ended questions should generate a longer response than Yes/ NO questions. When you put them to bed, sit with them as they may have more to say. Tell them they will do it all over again tomorrow (and for the next 13 years).
Start Regular Routines Early
By Dr. Daniela Acquaro BA, Grad DipEd, MEd, Ph.D. from The Melbourne Graduate School of Education – Zo
‘Commencing the new school year is exciting but can be stressful for kids and parents. But there are some great ways to help make this transition smooth. Starting regular routines earlier rather than later is one tip. Developing healthy sleep routines and keeping active each day will help with concentration.
Setting aside some time each day to read, draw or create together can be a great way to encourage a love of learning. Take time to explore your local area, a visit to the park or a walk down a street where you take time to notice and describe things. Even suggesting a visit to the local library, so children can get back in front of a book, can help. Engaging in fun activities that make learning exciting can also be a way of building concentration before the school year starts.’
‘Transitions can be tough for kids; it doesn’t matter what age. Starting in a new school or new class is often mixed with feelings of angst about how they will fit in socially and academically. Reassuring them that feeling nervous is ok, is important. Reminding them that it’s more than likely that the other kids are probably feeling the same will start to put them at ease.
Children will approach the new school year with a mix of reservation and excitement, so take time to talk about what might be worrying them and help them develop strategies to deal with new situations.’
Create A Calendar
By Deb Hopper, Occupational Therapist at Life Skills 4 Kids
‘The week before, create a page or whiteboard or calendar the few days before school goes back, and the first week of school. Write on this page/ whiteboard/ calendar what is scheduled for the last few days of the holidays, a picture of the front of the school (for younger kids), or the word “first day of school” for older kids on the date. Repeat for different children if they have different start dates. Put other activities that are planned for the week after school starts eg after school or weekend sports.’
A Little Bit of Anxiety Is Normal
By Emma Neil, P.L. Crew
‘It’s completely normal for children and teens to experience mild anxiety before the school year commences, and it can be managed with open communication with your children about their fears, helping them establish a healthy routine, and encouraging them to get enough sleep.’
1. Talk to them about how they are feeling
Our students are currently living through very uncertain times throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which can certainly be a contributing factor to overall anxiety and stress. Talk to your children about the uncomfortable feelings they might be experiencing and share yours too if it’s appropriate. Your children might get some comfort out of knowing that they aren’t isolated in how they feel.
Helping your children label their tough emotions can increase their emotional intelligence and help them identify these emotions later in life. It’s always important to validate how your child is feeling and listen to their concerns without minimising them or trying to fix the situation. Allow them some time and space to process, and offer them consistency, transparency, and a shoulder to lean on.
2. Help them establish a routine a week before school starts for the year.
The human body loves routine, and children, in particular, are incredibly sensitive to their routine and any sudden changes to it. Keeping a healthy routine reduces anxiety and uncertainty by making day-to-day life seem more predictable.
The school holidays are a time for well-deserved rest and relaxation, and kids are typically going to bed and waking up later than they are during the term time. Try to help them structure their routine similarly to their school day by allocating time for exercise, snacks, and meals, as well as easing into a healthier sleeping pattern. To help your child foster independence, parents can act as more of a guide for their children when structuring their routine.
3. Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep.
Sleep is so important for children as it not only plays a vital role in learning and memory but even having one night of sleep deprivation can worsen our anxiety. When the brain is suffering a lack of sleep, the amygdala (what drives our “fight or flight” response) is more likely to interpret non-threats as threats, which can fuel anxious thoughts.
Children aged 6-12 years should be getting 9-11 hours of sleep per night and teens aged 13-18 years need 8-10 hours.
Encourage your child to get the right amount of sleep every night, especially in the week leading up to the start of the school year. This will ensure that they’re well-rested and in an optimal headspace to mentally prepare for the new year and will hopefully aid in decreasing some of the anxiety they might be feeling.
4. Involve your child in positive back-to-school preparations
School might not be as exciting as what kids get up to on the holidays, but parents can help their children get excited for the new year by involving them in their back-to-school prep. Ask your child what they would like in their lunchboxes, and even involve them in the preparation process (like cutting up veggies or making sandwiches). We can also make the back-to-school prep fun for our kids by letting them pick out their own stationery and other school supplies.
It’s important to note that kids are very attentive and can be quick to pick up on our attitudes towards things, so try to keep conversations about school positive and remind your child of the fun and exciting aspects of schooling (like seeing their friends, learning cool stuff, and seeing their favourite teachers).
Take A Deep Breath!
By Okoye .C. Divine from Div Planet
Going to school for the first time after a long vacation or even a transfer to a new school can be exciting, and can also leave you nervous. Here are my tips for how to cope with the first day of school.
- Take a deep breath before entering the school gate.
This will help eliminate some nervousness. It gives you confidence and leaves you with a lot of positive vibes.
- Smile and walk like your father owns the school.
I’m not telling you to be proud. This has to do with confidence. Walk with confidence and smile at everyone. This will leave a positive impression about you.
- Greet your friends, teachers and other familiar faces. Initiate a handshake if possible.
Let’s get this straight, whenever students resume from a long vacation. 75% of the students will want you to talk to them first. This can be because they are shy or nervous. Being the first to greet them will give them a feeling of comfort around you. And you may end up being best friends with the person you hardly talked to before just because of this.
- Be nice, kind, and avoid being rude.
- Dress neatly and smartly for school every day.
- Most importantly, make a reading timetable and arm yourself with all the recommended study materials!
Keep Your Emotions In Check
By Sally Gibson, Founder and owner of Someone Sent you a Greeting
Here are some of the tips and advice I was given that really helped me cope with the first day of school…
For Your Child:
- You can help get your child to get familiar and more comfortable with the new school by arranging to meet their new teacher before the first day. Teachers are accommodating of the children they will be teaching and their fears, so if you explain about your child’s anxiety they will do all they can to comfort and reassure them before their first day.
- There is often an orientation before school starts and it’s a great place to meet new children and parents. This gives you and your child a chance to get to know other kids before they start so they won’t feel quite so alone. You can also mention your child’s nerves about their first day to see if other kids are feeling similar, which they invariably will be and that can reassure your child that everyone will be feeling the same.
- Many schools have open days before the official first day back. Getting familiar with a completely new environment – new building, new people, etc. – will help your child to feel more comfortable so when that first day arrives it isn’t all completely new.
- Explain to your child that feeling anxious is completely normal. They shouldn’t feel awkward about their nerves. Reassure them they aren’t different in being anxious.
- Be prepared! Don’t rush everything the morning of their first day and make it more stressful. Have their clothes laid out, breakfast ready, etc. make the process as smooth as possible for them.
- Reassure them you’re not leaving them. It can feel daunting and scary for a child to be left in a new place on their own. So make it clear to them you will be back to pick them up in a few hours.
Tips For Parents:
- Although it may be hard try to resist the temptation to see how they’re getting or go back and visit. You need to have the strength to let them go it alone.
- Some children will struggle with school early on. Accept that may be the case with your child and be prepared to help them deal with it if that’s the case. And don’t blame yourself!
- If you end up being more emotional than your child on their first day try to not show it too much. You don’t want to influence them especially if they are coping well.
Try Doing Some Role-Playing At Home
By Axel Hernborg – Tripplo
My top tips for coping with the first day of school are:
- Play a role in which you are the teacher, and your child is the student. Discuss school rules such as no running or hitting, paying attention, and raising one’s hand to speak.
- Purchase a backpack and water bottle featuring your child’s favourite cartoon character – These will assist your youngster in developing a positive school attitude.
- Accompany your child to orientation day to meet the teachers. Make it clear to your child who will be accompanying them to and from school.
- Share stories about the first day of school with them, or read them storybooks about the subject.
Open Communication & Active Listening
By Charles Xavier, Budget Orbit
‘The Covid-19 pandemic has made an already tough parenting job more hard. Being an active member of my local community, it has been evident that parents are relatively more scared to send their kids back to school. However, at the same time, they don’t want to compromise when it comes to their child’s education. The best thing a parent could do is to be in constant contact with their kids and listen as well as positively explain to them any questions they might have regarding the pandemic or other tough situations.’
Top 10 Back-to-School Tips
With the first day of school just around the corner, School Zone (creators of Australia’s most popular at-home learning books and the back-to-school experts) have compiled the Top 10 Back-to-School Tips to help make your kids’ summer-to-school transition as smooth as possible.
These brilliant ideas – from shopping tips to routine game-changers to genius hacks – will help the crew earn an A+ this semester and beyond.
- Create new sleep patterns – set your kids’ sleep schedules to ‘school time’ two weeks before school starts
- Try and remove tech devices 30 minutes before bedtime
- Encourage your kids to read at least one book before school starts
- Discuss what they can expect on their first day of school, so they feel prepared
- Create a family calendar with your kids, including timetables and any out-of-school activities they may be involved with
- Let them choose a new lunchbox and water bottle, and discuss healthy and eco-friendly food options
- Have a practice day at home where they get up, get dressed and pretend they are going to school
- Make back-to-school shopping a fun outing and let them choose their own supplies.
- Create a dedicated spot for your kids to read, learn and study – even if it’s just a quiet corner.
- Encourage them to have their school clothes and books ready to go the night before and have a designated space (like near the front door) for them to leave everything.
7 Things You Can Do Before and After the Big Day
By Brian Caswell, award-winning Australian Author and Dean of Research and Program Development at MindChamps
- To get your child excited for starting ‘Big School’ get them enthusiastic beforehand with a countdown chart similar to an advent calendar.
- Throwing a family ‘celebration/party’ with your child’s favourite dinner, a small celebration cake, even party hats on the evening before school starts is another way to signal that this is something to celebrate and look forward to.
- Take the time to ask them what they have done during their first day and spend some time discussing it with them. What did they enjoy? What did they find out that they didn’t know? Was there anything they were unsure of?
- Discuss any drawings or craft they bring home and perhaps design an activity that extends from it (making up an oral story, modelling from Playdough, drawing another picture together, singing a song related to the subject etc.).
- Ask them what they think they will do tomorrow and be excited about whatever they predict. You will be able to discuss whether they were right in their prediction when you talk tomorrow.
- Plan tomorrow’s lunch and play-lunch together, so that they have something to look forward to.
- Research shows that positive emotion improves retention, while negative emotion blocks learning, so: Focus On The Fun!
Top ten tips for coping with the first day of school
By Ms. Gabrielle Smith, Director of the Junior School at Waverley College
The first day of school is a notoriously difficult time for children, but after the past two years of lockdowns and social distancing, the first day back might be looking more daunting than ever.
Here are ten tips for coping with the first day of school – for kids and parents alike.
1. Use the ladder technique
Scary challenges can sometimes feel like we’re climbing a rickety, tall ladder. If your child is feeling overwhelmed by the thought of heading back to school, try drawing out a ladder on a piece of paper, and make note of the difficult tasks your child wishes to achieve when they go back to school on each ‘rung’. Put the simpler tasks at the bottom, and the more challenging ones at the top.
2. Create a worry box
A worry box is a physical representation of your child’s worries. The box is a way to symbolise the idea that worries are simply thoughts that we can separate ourselves from. Any box or jar can be used as the container and children can decorate the box in any way they like. They may wish to add a label to name their box, for example, ‘My Worry Box’. The box will help your child identify their anxieties, acknowledge them and store them in a safe place.
3. Try a mindful listening walk to school
Mindfulness is an important tool for children of any age to learn, especially when their minds are full of worries that they may not be able to fully articulate. One simple idea for younger children is going for a listening walk, with your child taking the lead and deciding the direction. Simply listen and name what you can hear along the way. If you live close enough and can make this walk happen en route to your child’s first day of school, even better.
The five senses technique, sometimes called the 5-4-3-2-1 method, works wonders for children and adults alike. Simply name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This method is great as it can be done anywhere – perhaps even in the car on the way to their first day back at school.
5. Prepare to separate ahead of time
Prepare your child to be independent by slowly increasing the amount of time they’re separated from you outside of school – whether it’s leaving them with a relative, taking them to a class or club, or having them visit a friend’s house — and increase the time apart as they grow in confidence. As the periods of separation increase, your child will eventually realise that they can always trust you to return, and that these new experiences can be both fun and enjoyable.
6. Make sure home is a calming space
Your child is headed back to school, but home is still going to remain a key place for studying. That’s why it can be beneficial for children to have their own calm, quiet space to study — where they can also get some peace after a busy day back at school.
7. Get informed on COVID-19 protocols
If you’re concerned about COVID-19 risks in your child’s school, ask teachers and staff to keep you informed of any changes, such as additional hygiene practices or changes to extra-curricular activities. This information will also help children who are feeling anxious about the virus, to recognise that their school is doing everything possible to keep them safe in the classroom.
8. Open communication between friends
‘Checking in’ with friends is a skill that many fail to master, or avoid, out of sheer lack of confidence. Encourage your child to check in on their friends and ask ‘are you okay?’, which can make all the difference in the world to any child who might be feeling isolated or alone. Children should be encouraged to communicate with each other without the aid of technology, especially after the past few years of digital-first contact. Sports, music, and drama are all great places for children to emotionally and physically reconnect.
9. Mindful breathing exercises
Mindful breathing exercises can be a huge help for any child feeling anxious on their first days of school. One technique, called ‘box breathing’, involves breathing in for four seconds, holding for four, breathing out for four, and holding for four. Try this out if your child is feeling particularly anxious about returning to school, and continue for as many boxes as it takes for them to feel calm.
10. Remind your child of the positives
Holidays are usually a joyful time for children, so it can be hard to stay positive about heading back to school — or starting for the very first time. Try to maintain a positive mindset when talking with your child about going back to school.
The most obvious motivator is new stationery, books, and clothes. But more importantly, talk about how a new year will bring new students and timetables, so they’ll have the opportunity to make new friends and reconnect with old ones.
How To Cope With The First Day Of School – Conclusion
The first day of school is one of many ‘firsts’ that both you and your child get to experience on their journey.
Give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve gotten them this far! It’s now time for them to take the next step in their learning, and start to make friends, learn how the world works, and expand their horizons.
By staying calm, communicating, and overcoming any anxieties together, you will strengthen the bond you have with your child and turn what might have been a challenging experience into a memory you will both look back at with happy smiles.
Here’s another insightful article for another “first”—Top 20 Common and Normal New Baby Questions!