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How can I prepare my child for the first day of school?

Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, PsyD
Psychology Specialist

If your kid is anxious about the new school year, there's plenty you can do to help calm her jitters. In this video, psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein suggests ways to help a child prepare for the first day of school.

The first day of school can be daunting—it often comes with apprehension about new teachers, new classes and new friends. Fortunately, you can help soothe your child’s anxiety and get him or her excited about the new adventures the upcoming school year can bring.

  • Lunchbox letters - A note from mom or dad can go a long way during a lonely lunchtime. For the first few days, your child might still be interacting with new classmates and trying to decide whom to befriend. A cheerful, loving message left in your child’s lunchbox can boost spirits and get him or her through the day.
  • Play dates with pals - In this age of social media, many parents are connected with other parents in a multitude of ways. Staying connected with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram makes it easier for parents to figure out which children you already know in your child’s class and can also help you arrange end-of-summer play dates to reacquaint your child with school friends.
  • Amiable attitudes - Above all, keeping an upbeat demeanor about the upcoming school year will help your child cultivate one of his or her own. Let your son or daughter know that you hear and understand his or her fears, but then shift their focus to the positives, such as new learning experiences and new friends.
Dr. Lynne Kenney
Psychology Specialist

Here are her five easy steps you can do at home to help calm your child and make a successful first day of school.

  1. Create a school routine. Every night before school, get your child’s clothes ready and prepare his or her lunchbox for the following day. This routine encourages talk time between you and your child. Preparation will reduce anxiety and help your child feel more masterful. Make sure your children get enough rest the night before. A sleepy child can be more anxious and afraid. 
  2. Before school starts talk with your child about what he or she should expect. Talk to them about the classroom routine, activities, friends, and the teacher. Practice entering the classroom to greet friends and teachers. “Hi, I’m Joey. Do you want to play cars?” “Hi, I’m Sarah. Do you want to sit with me at lunch?”
  3. Help your child learn how to socialize and make friends by having a playgroup or back to school party in your home. 
  4. Show your positive attitude. Your child will follow you as the leader. Smile and show your enthusiasm for school.
  5. Make the drop-off short and sweet. We parents want to hold our children and nurture them at the drop-off. That is wonderful. But doing it lovingly and quickly. You may cry so may your child. That’s fine as well. Hand them off to the caring teacher with a sparkle in your eye.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.