The first day of school can be rough for parents and kids alike. It’s an unknown. It’s foreign territory. It’s downright scary. Even if you have an experienced student its normal and likely for nerves to set in on that first back to school morning. A new classroom, new classmates, a new routine, new subjects, and a new teacher is a lot to take in. And that first drop off on that first day is extremely important. It can set the tone for the next few weeks, months even, of your child’s school career. Over my years in the school setting I’ve put together a list of ways that you can ace that first day of school drop off to help your child start the school year off right.
How you act on the first day of school and on the days leading up to the first day of school will directly effect how smoothly the drop off goes. If you cry, he will probably cry. If you are nervous, chances are she will be nervous. And if you walk up to campus with all the confidence of Beyonce than it is pretty dang likely your child will, too. It’s a lot of pressure, but don’t you worry, you will be fine, your child will be fine.
How to Have Tear Free First Day of School
1. Visit the School Prior to the First Day
Most schools have open campuses that you can explore during non-school hours. Take your child on a little tour to familiarize her with important & exciting spots like the office, the cafeteria, the playground, the library and her grade level classrooms. If her campus is not open to random visitors you can always check in with the office during school hours & ask for a guided tour.
2. Go Over the School Morning Routines Before the Big Day
It’s best to start the bedtime & morning routine a week or two before the school year start. Initiating the school year bedtime, wake up time, breakfast, & dressing routine early will prep your child & help ease him in to all the upcoming change.
3. Talk About It, But Not Too Much
If you pass by your child’s school or see a row of backpacks at the store make mention of the approaching school year start. Pay attention to your child’s reactions & let her response direct your conversation. If she seems anxious keep the talk minimal & positive. If he is excited & eager to chat about all the details then go for it! Don’t shy away from the negative talk but don’t let it consume your conversation, either. If your child is afraid let her express her fears & address them. Be sure to end any school directed talk with something positive, like how yummy school lunch is or how the campus has a new playground!
4. Do Not Cry
Maybe this tip should have been number one on the list, because really, it is the most critical. Whatever you do or do not do, you cannot cry in front of your child. Even happy tears can confuse a child, especially on an emotionally charged day. He may think that your tears mean there is something to be feared about this new situation. Keep your sprinkles off until your child your child is out of eye site then feel free to break out the Kleenex box.
5. Do Not Tell Her Not to Cry
Let your child express their emotions as needed. If tears are how they are going to get through this tricky beginning then let them cry. Give her a big hug, some reassuring words, & wipe those tears away when you part. Walking away from a tearful child is one of the toughest things a parent can do, but in this situation it isn’t just warranted, it is necessary. If your child continues to cry when it is time for you to go, it is absolutely imperative that you let his teacher handle the situation. He has to learn to trust this new adult.
6. Do Not Linger at the Door
Peeking in the windows or hovering near the door won’t do anyone any good. It won’t help ease your anxiety & it certainly won’t help your child feel any more comfortable. Once again, this type of behavior will confuse your child. You don’t want to confuse your child into thinking there is something unsafe about school to make you on guard. The more comfortable you appear to be with the separation the more comfortable she will be.
7. Do Not Go in The Classroom
The door is the parting place. Once you step foot in the classroom it makes it so much harder to walk away. Do yourself a favor & reserve in class exploration for after school.
8. Give Him a Hug & Get on Your Way
The longer you linger the more time your child has to rethink things. Make your good bye quick & meaningful. Just because it’s a short goodbye doesn’t mean that it isn’t touching. My sons & I have a secret wave that means “I love you.” Our little secret code allows us short but sweet partings.
Remember, the first day is only the beginning. These transitions can take time. Even if your child has a triumphant tear free first day that doesn’t mean she won’t be struck with an onset of nervousness or anxiety in the weeks to come. Tune in to your child’s emotional cues, regularly check in with your child during the after school pick up, & take time to keep in touch with his teacher. And don’t forget to take a few minutes to check in with you child after school to reassure, reaffirm, & rekindle. It doesn’t matter if this is your first child’s first day of preschool or your seventh child’s first day of seventh grade, starting a new school year can be tricky but your positive & comforting support can make all the difference. You’ve got this.
Starting the school year off right is so important – check out these other great ideas for making the transition from summer to school a smooth one: