10 Solutions for First Day Jitters
1. Your child is struggling to organize himself and his belongings.
SOLUTION: At home, consider giving him his own cubby or locker to stash his jacket, backpack, cap, and sports gear as soon as he walks through the door. No room for a locker? A chair or a few pegs will do. He won't have to search for lost or missing items and you won't have a sprawling mess greeting you every time you come home. Go through the backpack together as soon as he comes home to pull out any important notices, forms, or assignments you need to keep track of or sign.
2. Your child has trouble separating from you in the mornings.
SOLUTION: Switch off and ask your spouse to drop her off at school. Chances are she'll have an easier time separating from your partner than you, especially if he is the parent who works or travels more. Carpooling with other families also gives your daughter the opportunity to travel with other kids and switch into school mode beginning at the car or front door. It's easier for her to say good-bye to a pal's mom than you.
3. It's a new school and your child doesn't know anybody.
SOLUTION: There are many ways you can build community and instill a sense of belonging in your child. Host a low-key and informal play date or gathering with a few classmates before school starts. Make a phone list so parents can set up play dates. After school starts, organize a meet-up in the park or an afterschool picnic. Volunteer and become an active, involved parent in the school community. Not only will your child see you working with others, but every time you show up at school to volunteer, she'll catch a reassuring glimpse of your face.
4. Your child doesn't know what to expect in kindergarten and worries about what they might ask him to do.
SOLUTION: Try the buddy system: Bring in an older sibling or role model to act as a big brother or big sister figure to walk and talk your child through the process of the first day--what kindergarten will be like, what he can expect, and how much fun he will have. This big sib also can answer any questions.
5. Your child takes too long to get dressed.
SOLUTION: Avoid the mad morning rush hour by picking out your child's outfits the night before to avoid conflict and indecision. Better yet, ask your child to arrange her outfits and hang them up on hangers labeled Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. If there is still a tug of wills, limit her choice between two outfits. To further streamline the morning dash, handle as much of the prep work (making lunch, signing papers, gathering books, and supplies) the night before so all you have to do is get dressed, eat, and go!
6. Help! Every day your child brings home a new work of art she's made or story that she's written.
SOLUTION: Create a scrapbook or binder to hold the artwork, snapshots, keepsakes, and photographs you want to save. Choose only your favorites. With the binder, it helps to preserve artwork in plastic sleeves. Involve your child in the memory-keeping process. Let her choose the stickers or album, and write down her comments and memories on the side. By the end of the year, you'll have a keepsake your child will treasure and flip through over and over. You also can send artwork to grandparents and friends, or take photos of the project with a digital camera and record it that way.
7. Your child is experiencing anxiety and low self-confidence.
SOLUTION: Roleplay. Switch places with your child. Pretend that she's the teacher and you are the nervous kindergartener. Bring out her bossy side. If she were in charge, what kind of activities would she make the class do? Act out common fears and frustrations: "Nobody likes me." "Where is the bathroom?" Sometimes the sight of an adult rolling around the floor and moaning, "I miss my mommy!" is enough to disperse any lingering doubts with a fit of giggles. It also teaches children important coping, nurturing, communication, and problem-solving skills. Learning how to communicate is key—and so is engaging in conversations with your child where they are encouraged to both listen and participate.
8. Your child is having bad dreams.
SOLUTION: Help decode any bad dreams or nightmares with our dream interpreter tool. Is your child having a recurring nightmare about a leaky ceiling in the bathroom? That could be a sign of your child's subconscious worries and need to find a private and safe space. Find ways to reassure her, and let her know you care about her.
9. Your child wants to bring her favorite stuffed animal to school.
SOLUTION: Reassure your child that her bear or bunny will be waiting for her when she comes home—and that it will be in a safe place, where nobody can pick it up or walk away with it. Then make a backpack buddy she can carry with her, or leave in her locker. It's still cute and fuzzy, but much smaller and less conspicuous than a doll or stuffed animal.
10. Your child thinks that school and books will be boring after a summer of freedom and playing outdoors.
SOLUTION: "There's a lot of pressure for children to learn how to read," says Cleo Banks, a retired kindergarten teacher. "And we want them to read, we want it to happen, but we want it to happen in the most positive way possible. When children read signs and discover, and put letters together, it's like magic. They don't know they do it." To keep a sense of excitement and magic about the printed word, have a quiet reading nook or corner. Make a book about her school experiences that you can read together and ask her to write and illustrate the pages. Read classic back-to-school tales or watch school-themed DVDs and movies to get in the mood for school.