We are so grateful to Kelley Wilkinson for taking the time to contribute today’s blog post. Kelley is Director of Preschool Pals here at Stonebriar Community Church. In addition to filling her days with preschoolers, parents, and teachers, she is the wife of Curtis and mother of three teenage boys. This broad experience, along with her certification as a teacher of Love and Logic® techniques, makes her a great resource for parents with children of all ages.
Starting school is so exciting with all the new adventures. However, all these changes can bring fear and anxiety. Most of the stress will come from just not knowing everything up front. Once your child has experienced the routine, the transition from home to school will become easier.
Here are some ways you can help your child have a happy start of school:
Visit New Surroundings
Take time to walk around the school or play on the playground, if possible. Try a dry run of the routine before the end of summer—drive through the carpool lane, practice getting out of the car and saying goodbye, etc. If you can, schedule a play date with any kids in the neighborhood who will be attending the same school so your child will see familiar faces on the first day.
Offer Them Ownership
Allow your child to be involved in the decision making of school purchases (eg: lunch box, back pack, clothing, school supplies). Offering choices within acceptable boundaries (style, character, cost) allows children to feel ownership, which helps them grow more excited about school. Often, school supplies will be class community items, so talk about the need to share with their classmates.
Before school starts, begin talking with your child about morning routines, what to expect at school, different classes they will have (art, playground/PE, music, chapel, computers). You must have an attitude of honest excitement. Kids can sense when you aren’t truthful. Make sure your words and feelings as a parent are positive about school. For example, instead of saying: “I will miss you so much, I don’t know what I will do without you”, be positive and say: “I can’t wait to hear about all the fun things you did at school today. You are going to have so much fun!” Then, reassure them when they will see you again by discussing the after-school routine. Will you meet them at school to walk home, at the bus stop, or pick them up from after school care? Tell your child the details.
Attend School Sponsored Activities
Make every effort to bring your child to Meet the Teacher Night, Kindergarten Round-Up, Open Houses, etc. For Kinder, see if there are any PTA sponsored events like Popsicles in the Park before school starts.
The day or night before, plan and prepare everything:
-Pick out clothes and shoes
-Pack the backpack and put it in your designated backpack spot
-Pack the lunchbox and have it ready in the refrigerator
-Get up early enough to allow time to eat breakfast and go through your morning routine calmly
-Leave on time so you don’t feel rushed, and to allow for additional traffic the first day of school
Keep Goodbyes Quick
When it is time to say goodbye, do it quickly and encouragingly. Examples might be “I love you and have a great day” or “See you after school. I can’t wait to hear what you learned.” For preschoolers, “I love you. See you after nap (or last section of their day)” would work well. You could even do a fun ritual every day, like a special hug, kiss, or hand signal routine. An even simpler example is to say “See you later alligator” and your child replies “after while crocodile.” Remember to reassure your children when you will see them next, like when you pick them up after school, meet them at the bus stop, or get them from after-school care.
Your children will feed off of your attitude, confidence, and excitement about school and will make it their own. In order to become lifelong learners, their school experience must be positive and enjoyable, and this starts with you—the parent!
Children naturally love to learn, so foster that joy through your words and actions. The best thing you can do for your child is to pray with and for them every day. Children differ greatly in learning style, so make it a priority to learn about your children so you can better help them. Enjoy the time that God has given you with your child—it will go so fast.
“For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart.” 1 Samuel 1:27
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