I know you don’t want to think about it—especially if you’re sending your baby to school for the first time—but it is back-to-school season. If your little one is headed off for their first school experience, chances are they’re a little bit (or maybe a lot!) nervous. Here are some tips to help calm those back-to-school butterflies.
Meet their teachers, staff, and classmates. My daughter’s preschool set up playdates for each “grade” in the month leading up to the first day of school. The secret purpose was to give parents a chance to turn in missing paperwork, but really it gave the kids, families, staff, and teachers and chance to meet each other before the first day of classes. Now that she’s in elementary school, there’s a Meet the Teacher Night at the start of each school year. The secret purpose of that is to drop off the giant bag of required school supplies because who wants to haul that on the bus on the first day of school? Seriously, though, it’s a chance to see the classroom, meet the teacher, meet some classmates, and for your child to learn their way around at least part of the school before their first day.
Do a dry run. If your child will be walking to school, practice walking to and from school a few times. Is your child going to be taking the bus? Walk to and from the bus stop. If you’ll be driving them or carpooling, practice the drive; doing it at the actual time you’ll be going to school isn’t the worst idea either, so you can get a feel for traffic. Many schools are open the week before classes start. Call the school and see if you can stop in, so your child can practice what it will be like to enter the school from the bus drop-off point, or the entrance they’ll use if they walk or get a ride.
Create a routine. Pick out clothes the night before, and make sure lunch is packed and that the backpack is ready to go before bedtime, so that mornings are as calm and unrushed as they can be. While your routine may need some tweaking as you figure out exactly what works best, this next part is important: DON’T DO SOMETHING ON THE FIRST DAY THAT’S DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU’LL DO THE REST OF THE TIME. For example, if your child will be riding the bus during the school year, don’t drive them to school on the first day. Yes, I get that it will rip your heart out not to see them walk up to the school doors (no, really, I do!), but it’s better for everyone to establish the normal from Day One.
Read some books. Not only is reading books great quality time together (yay!), but it will help your kids to see how others handled similar situations of being nervous or afraid, and it will give them examples of what their school day might look like when they get there. Here’s a list of popular first day of school books. And here’s a list recommended by teachers; they don’t all have to do with the first day of school, but there are some good picks in here.
Role play. Speaking of thinking about how others handle similar scary moments, I came across the idea of role-playing situations that might make your child nervous and I thought it was kind of neat. The example I read about was a girl who pretended she was the shy child in the corner, and her family would have to talk her into joining the group. If your child is especially nervous about something, this can be a fun way to address it. It can also be a tool to keep in your pocket for later in the year if an issue comes up.
Avoid a long good-bye. Especially, if you’re dropping your child off at school, you might find it tempting to stick around to help them get settled in, or to see that they’ve connected with a friend and have someone to talk to. DON’T DO IT. Don’t give in to the desire for a long, teary hug as they climb on the bus, with well-wishes shouted and wild waves given as the bus pulls away. Just give a quick hug, wish them a good day, tell them you love them and shove ‘em on their way. Save your tears for a boo-hoo brunch with your friends.
And finally, when it comes to calming those butterflies take care of your own. Go ahead and plan a boo-hoo brunch (or a first day of school celebration, I’m not gonna judge your emotions) with your fellow parents if you can. Seriously. Whether you’re feeling a little bittersweet about sending your baby off to school you are thrilled AF to get those little monsters out of your house after summer is over—or both if you have more than one kid—it can be great to take an hour or two and spend time with your fellow parents after the kids head off to school.
We’ve got more ideas here, and we’d love to hear yours, too. Share them in the comments!