5 tips for preparing your kids — and yourself — for the first day of school
Children will often pick up on parents' anxiety, therapist says
The first day of school on P.E.I. is Sept. 6 and for some kids, it will be their first experience in a classroom. And for some parents, it will be their first time sending their kids off to school.
To help navigate the transition, Kathy Jones, a clinical therapist and executive director of Family Service P.E.I., offers these tips.
1. Establish a back-to-school routine
About a week before school starts is a good time to transition back to earlier bedtimes and regular meal times, Jones says.
Some children may have some anxiety about starting school and it's really important that mom and dad be there to listen.— Kathy Jones
"I know we all try to squeeze the last little bit of summer out but if you can at all it's really important to start about a week before school starts and try to to get back into a school preparation routine."
Young children thrive on routine, so it's important to create as much predictability as you can, she says.
2. Listen to your child's concerns
Don't automatically say everything is going to be fine, because it might not be, Jones says.
"We're very inclined with our children to, when they're upset, we want them to feel better. But when we do that inadvertently with all of the best intentions we really shut down them expressing any worries or concerns they might have," she says.
If they are feeling anxious, help them come up with a plan, even if it's just telling them to take a couple of really deep breaths before going into the classroom..
"Some children may have some anxiety about starting school and it's really important that mom and dad be there to listen to any concerns that they might have."
3. Watch your own behaviour
Kids are like sponges, and are likely to pick up on any anxiety parents have, Jones says.
"It's a transition. Kids are getting older, you're going to be emotional and that's OK, but if you can at all, keep those emotions for after you've gotten your child settled at school or on the bus."
Talk to another parent who has gone through it — they'll understand.
4. Trust the teachers
Kindergarten teachers are "amazing human beings," Jones says, and you can trust them to be well prepared for that first day of school and for kids who are going to be anxious coming into new environments.
"They do a fantastic job in terms of easing the transition for these little ones."
5. Celebrate the occasion
Take that picture on the front step with their backback and new shirt, for example, or plan something special for after school.
"If you're able to create some celebratory nature to the first day of school, then for kids it becomes a point of transition that they look forward to and that they actually enjoy," Jones says.