On the first day of school, an excited four-year-old Isabella walked into her Ottawa kindergarten class and never looked back. The only tears belonged to Carole Allen, her mom, who watched proudly from the hallway. Carole, a stay-at-home mom, had been helping Isabella get ready for the big transition from preschooler to schoolgirl over the past few weeks. Like any good career coach, Carole, a former elementary teacher, had prepped Isabella and other neighbourhood pre-kindergarteners on everything from sitting in a group and following directions to taking turns. They practiced asking to go to the bathroom, how to open their lunch boxes or how to manage their own zippers and buttons.
“I spent my first day at school sitting under the teacher’s desk refusing to budge,” recalls Carole. “I was so scared. I want Isabella to feel confident about school right from the start.”
A little preparation can go a long way to easing anxiety for a child’s entry into the school system. It’s normal for kids to feel anxious about any change in their routine. Even kids who have been in daycare or nursery school may find ‘the big school’ a little intimidating and can benefit from some instruction to increase their comfort level. Having a positive attitude about school yourself helps, she says, even if you didn’t have the best experience. Your attitude affects how your child feels.
HOW TO RELIEVE ANXIETY ABOUT THE BIG DAY
- Help your child to express any worries about starting school. Bedtime is a good time for a heart-to-heart chat.
- Talk about how you might solve any problems together. Explain that even grown-ups get nervous when trying something new.
- Discuss what’s allowed at school and what’s not (i.e. rules on toys).
- Mark your child’s belongings (lunchbox, jacket) clearly to avoid confusion with others who may have similar items.
- Get into the daily routine of waking up, dressing and having breakfast on the school schedule for several days before the start date.
SKILLS TO PRACTISE BEFORE YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL DEBUT:
- How to make friends.
- Create opportunities for your child to play with others.
- Encourage your child to be helpful and kind to others.
- Encourage your child to share and take turns.
- Make ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ part of your child’s vocabulary.
- Encourage your child to use words to express feelings.
- Teach your child how to ask politely for help or to go to the bathroom.
- Practise bathroom skills so your child can manage independently.
- Practise mastering zippers, buttons and shoes.
- Help your child memorize his or her phone number and address.
- Read to your child daily to develop vocabulary and listening skills.
- Play simple games using numbers and letters.
- Show kids how to print their own name.
- Enjoy songs together with sing-a-long actions.
- Visit the local library or bookstore for some of the many stories about kindergarten, such as The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing or Little Bear Goes to Kindergarten by Jutta Langreuter, so your child knows what to expect.
Arrange eye, ear and dental check-ups for your child early in the school year so you’re aware of any problems.
- Plan your child’s first day clothing outfit together and lay it out the night before.
- Visit the child’s school together, taking the same route that you will be travelling.
- Visit the classroom and meet the teacher beforehand if possible.
- Leave the video camera at home and be ‘in the moment’ with your child.
- Snap a few pictures at home before you leave for school. PC