Some kids love school, others just don’t. The hardest thing for parents and teachers alike is seeing a child who is terrified about school. The day I dropped my first-grader off and tears were streaming down her face, my heart nearly broke. To make the transition to school easier, try these awesome tips for reluctant kiddos that are both sweet and creative.
When School’s Not Cool: 10 Tips for Reluctant Kiddos
1. Jitter Glitter
My son’s third grade teacher handed little packets of Jitter Glitter to every child on “Meet the Teacher” day (the day before school). She told the kids that it’s okay to be nervous and to read the poem and put the special jitter glitter under their pillows tonight. It worked like a charm!
2. Soft Start
For the first week of school, some teachers have what they call a “Soft Start” where parents of reluctant kiddos are allowed to come into the classroom for 15 minutes before school starts to help their child get situated and say goodbye.
3. Read “The Kissing Hand” Book
This book comes highly recommended by our readers and the Amazon reviews concur. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is about a little Raccoon who is doesn’t want to start school. His mama shares with him a family secret called the Kissing Hand to help relieve his fears. It’s the perfect book to read to reluctant kiddos who don’t think school is too cool.
4. Explore the School Beforehand
One thing that helps my anxiety-prone kiddos is to know what they’re walking into beforehand. The more reluctant kids can be prepared, the better. Schedule a time before school starts to come in and explore the school. Maybe the principal or your child’s teacher can give a tour, or perhaps you can just walk around together. Show your child where the bathrooms are, the lunchroom, and check out the playground together.
5. Pom Pom in the Pocket
A mom shared this sweet idea with us on our Instagram page. If you’ve got a child who is reluctant or scared to leave mom or dad, give them a special pom pom to put in their pocket. Tell them that this is a very special pom pom that you’ve put love into (make a show of kissing the pom pom or even spraying it with your perfume or cologne). Your child can keep the pom pom safe in his or her pocket and pull it out or reach in and touch it if they feel sad or lonely while you’re apart.
It’s a great sensory reminder that you’re never too far away.
6. Bring a comfort item from home.
Similarly, this has worked well for my reluctant kiddos when they were scared about starting a new grade or trying something new. I let them choose one special friend or comfort item from home (usually a stuffed animal or small blanket) to take in their backpack. They don’t take it out of their backpack, but can go take a peek inside if they need. Just knowing that they have something from home in their backpack is all the comfort they need.
7. Box of Rubbing Rocks
A Kindergarten teacher did this for her class with great success. She would keep a box of smooth rocks in her classroom and call them “comfort rocks.” Whenever anyone was feeling sad, they could go to the box and hold one of the rocks for as long as they needed to.
8. Acknowledge Feelings
One of the most important things I’ve learned with my shy kids is to acknowledge their feelings. So often we are quick to brush them off saying, “Oh, it’s not scary…” or “Don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine.”
What anxious/reluctant kids need to hear is that their feelings are validated. “Yes, I can see how that would be scary…” or “It’s okay to feel scared. When I was going into first grade…” They want you to relate to them, to empathize with them.
For this reason, I share with my kids what I call the “Five Times Rule.” Basically, the first time you try something new (like a new class) you will feel a lot of nervousness. The second day still may be a little scared, but not as much as the first day. And by the fifth time, you won’t feel scared at all!
9. Don’t tell them you’ll be lonely without them.
A big mistake that parents unknowingly make is to say things like, I’m going to miss you so much…or I’m going to be so lonely without you. Although perhaps true, it doesn’t help kids put on a brave face. Instead, tell them that you are proud of them and so excited for the fun things that they’ll be doing in school. Of course you’ll want to hear all about it when they get home.
10. Plan a playdate.
Finally, to help kids ease into a new school or class, organize a playdate within the first few weeks with one or two kids in the class. When my son entered first grade, I was so worried about him making friends, considering how shy he was. At Back-to-School night, I asked his teacher if there was anyone in the class he seemed to connect with. The teacher pointed me in the right direction, introduced me to another parent and we set up a playdate. To this day (he’s in third grade now), that boy is still his very best friend. Sometimes it just takes a little gentle nudge.
So whether you’re a parent or a teacher, all kids deserve to have a positive school experience and sometimes that means getting a little creative. But once reluctant kiddos feel comfortable in their classrooms, they will excel social and academically.