It’s almost back to school time, which is exciting, and scary, for parents sending a child into the classroom for the first time. Kids are often nervous or clingy in the days leading up to their first trip to school. Kathy Tracey, director of the , says the best way to prepare your preschooler is to be prepared and eliminate unknowns.
“What I see with first-timers especially is that they haven’t had a lot of practice talking for themselves,” she said. “They aren’t sure how they can communicate with the teachers and other kids about what they might need.”
Tracey recommends going through some basic questions with a new student before they head off to the classroom.
“Ask them questions like ‘What would you do if you needed to go to the bathroom?’ she said. “If you don’t know, go over what words they should use.”
Visits to the school before the big day, meeting the teacher and getting kids into a school routine can all help eliminate anxiety. Tracey said she used to tease her kids a little to get them thinking about going back to school.
“When my kids were little, I would drive past the school all the time and slow the car down,” she said. “I would ask them if they wanted to get out and wait for school to start.”
Tracey said parents have to be prepared too. She recommends parents read everything they get from the school ahead of time, and ensure that their kid has all of the right equipment.
“Then they can really explain everything to their child, including the rules,” she said.
The night before, pack a lunch and lay out clothes to prepare for the next morning. Tracey said this will help with sleep anxiety.
“That way all they have to do is get up and go to school and it will be fun!” Tracey said. “Parents should be confident and know their child is going to like their school.”
On the big day, Tracey says the most important thing is to be upbeat.
“It helps the separation anxiety a lot if Mom is happy. She can cry later in the car, and a lot do, as long as it’s later.”