The first day of school is one of the very important milestones for most parents and their children. As a parent, you may be excited for your child and the new experiences that they will start to have once they start school. Your child might also be feeling proud to be a big kid now, especially when their older siblings or other children in their life also go to school. At the same time, the start of school can bring with it new worries and anxieties that were not necessarily present before, and these are also an important part of this milestone. In this blog, which I will divide into two parts, I will first discuss some important points for parents to be aware of. In the second part of the blog, I will give some ideas of what you could say to your child on their first day of school.
While it might be more obvious to focus on the child’s experience and worries around their transition to school, the parents’ experience of this is also a very important ingredient. This is because parents are often very influential to a child when the child is sensing if something or someone is safe for them or not. If your child notices that you are agitated, upset, or if they see you crying, for example, your child might conclude that what is happening is not a good thing, or that school is a scary place to be, and chances are that your child will mirror your own reactions. If your child starts to get agitated and upset, this will make it even more difficult for you to have a positive experience of their first day of school. By no means am I saying that it is not natural to feel anxious or worried as a parent; in fact, many parents have a hard time with leaving their child at school for their first day. What I am saying is to be mindful of how you are dealing with your anxiety and worries, and that how you feel and how you act is probably as impactful on the experience of the first day of school as what you say to your child.
Engaging in some preparatory activities with your child could support you both with the worries that are related to this transition. Some examples of these preparatory activities could include;
- Going on an outing together to buy a school bag, a lunch box and so on
- Transitioning your child to a ‘school bedtime’ routine
- Using pretend play to explore with your child what school would be like
- Thinking of some basic skills that your child might need to use at school; such as opening their lunch box or unwrapping their lunch, and integrate them in their routines before (for example have a picnic with your child where your child can practice opening their lunch box)
Rebecca Cassar is a Family Therapist practicing the Systemic Approach. She specializes in offering therapy to families, couples and individuals who are experiencing distress in their relationships. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.