Children should prepare for the new school year as if they were planning for an adventure, not a trip down a dark alley in the middle of a questionable neighborhood. When planning for an adventure, you generally make a list of what to bring, considering needs and wants. You plan a list of places to see on your new adventure. And you may map the way so you know how to proceed to arrive at a specific time. Here are five ways to help your children overcome the fear of back-to-school jitters and look forward to that first day, week, and month, with eager anticipation.
- Read stories that show children that making new friends is easier than they imagine. Children see themselves as tiny islands in a huge ocean of unfamiliar faces. Instead, they should look at themselves as part of an archipelago, linked by a similar location and memories. Help your children to see that other kids have watched the same cartoons, played with the same toys, and perhaps even read the same books. Show them that they can begin with a common ground and build a friendship from that first attempt to connect. The EnteleTrons® help Oxygen find new friends, despite its reluctance to form bonds in the e-book, Oxygen Finds Friends.
- Travel the road to school several times before the first day, so your child becomes comfortable with the trip. Stand for a few minutes at the bus stop without all of the other children around. Talk about school bus stop safety. If your child is particularly tentative, walk with him or her into the school and ask someone to show you to your child's new classroom. (Call ahead of time to avoid a surprise - busy staff, cleaning crew in the hall, etc.) Also, practice getting up to the 6:00 alarm clock a few times before school starts, so the first day doesn't arrive as the proverbial rude awakening!
- Take your child with you when you go shopping for the inevitable supply list posted at the school's website. Your child will find it very satisfying to walk into school with supplies that she has personally chosen for her trek into school. This way, she can have the red, rather than yellow notebook, the zebra print backpack, and the purple pencil case that fits into the binder. She will take ownership of those materials. Likewise, take your child with you when shopping for school clothes. I know this sounds like a given because you'd need to fit the clothing to the child, but this will give your child one more choice about his or her future in a sea of requirements. Even if your school has uniforms, shop for underwear!
- Help your child to make an "I Would Like to Find" chart before the first day of school. In one column, list all the things he or she might want to find (like a new buddy, friendly teacher, yummy lunch, fun games at recess or gym class, etc. etc.) You might even turn this activity into a treasure hunt - find a potted plant, a picture of a dog, an American flag, etc. Then during the day, instead of worrying about potential problems, your young student will be looking for the fun things he or she will find.
- Finally, have a frank discussion with your child about the first day of school. When is the best time to do this? While riding in a car! The forward motion has been proven to encourage conversations. So, on your way to the playground, the ball field, the piano lessons, or a friend's house, talk about your child's expections, fears, and worries. Help him to see that everyone feels like this sometimes, but it's the way we react to those fears and worries that controls how comfortable we become with the new situation. Help him to feel like he has always been in that classroom before he even arrives.