Momsense: How parents can prepare for their child’s first day of school

How many snapshots do you
have in weathered old photo
albums of a pint-sized you on
the first day of school – freshly
scrubbed, wearing a spankin’
new outfit, carrying a clean
backpack. It still ranks as one
of biggest milestones for a child
– and a parent! Seeing your
baby march confi dently out the
front door, half-empty backpack
strapped on, and ready for the
unknown, can trigger even the
most stoic parent to tear up.

Parents have an important role
to play in making that transition
from preschooler to student as
smooth as possible. Whether
it’s your child’s first day ever or
merely the start of yet another
school year, there are many
things you can do to ease the
transition.

Carolyn Melmed is a teacher
and certifi ed mediator who
has pioneered programs in
organization and study skills.
She has counseled teachers and
parents for more than 35 years.

“The mindset of the parent is
so important. I like to think of the
parent as a coach.” She outlines
three key qualities for parents to
embrace in this role:

Motivation: You are the cheerleading
squad, encouraging from
the sidelines.

Method: You have to actually
teach your child how to do certain
school-related tasks such as
packing and unpacking a school
bag and doing homework.

Discipline: This is the followthrough,
where all the good
intentions above are enforced.
Next is negotiating the back-toschool
supply list. As tempting
as it may be to stock up on school
supplies the minute they hit store
shelves, it’s important to wait
until your child receives their
supply list from the teacher.

Teachers can be very specific
about the colours of the binders
and the quantity of 2HB
lead pencils each child must
have. However, Carolyn does
recommend you start checking
items off the school supply list the
minute you receive it, as stores
can sell out of popular items at
the beginning of the school year.
And before you know it, exams
will be right around the corner!

Dealing with anxiety

If your child is experiencing
some anxiety about the beginning
of the year, you may want to
consider some extra steps:

  • Does the school hold an open
    house, where kids can tour the
    building and meet the teacher? If
    so, take advantage. The unknown
    can be a big part of the tension. 
  • If the school doesn’t have a
    formal visiting day, try calling
    and scheduling a private visit for
    you and your child.
  • Find out if your child has a
    friend attending the same school –
    schools don’t always accommodate
    these requests, but you could try
    asking to have your child and his
    friend in the same class.

Making homework work for you

Too much or too little? Homework is often the subject of hot debate among parents. One common guide
suggests 10 minutes per night for every grade, so a Grade 4 student might have 40 minutes. Teacher Carolyn
Melmed suggests making homework easier by dividing supplies into three zones to keep kids organized:

  • Tools – stock extra pens,
    pencils, erasers – everything
    your child will need to efficiently tackle homework.
  • Paper – store extra
    lined paper, poster
    boards, notebooks and
    the like for assignments.
  • Filing – get a simple hanging fi le folder
    frame that can stand on a desk and divide
    each subject into three sub-categories:
    Projects Due, Old Notes and Tests.

Moms Andrea and Lianne cofounded
WhereParentsTalk.com and co-host Parents
Talk on Rogers TV. Together they have
produced several award-winning parenting
DVDs and web videos.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2012.

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