Tips to Ease First-day Jitters and Back-to-School Anxiety
First-day jitters, or that uncomfortable fluttery feeling of butterflies in your stomach is a common back-to-school emotion among many children. Montessori schools strive to achieve an easy transition between home and school for young children by creating a home-like environment at school. Plan ahead with these Montessori tips and give your child the tools to be self-confident and help ease back-to-school anxiety.
Make practice trips to school.
Walk, drive, take the bus route, or bike the path to school, several mornings before the first day of school. Take time to enjoy the route together, point out and talk about interesting trees, homes, and businesses along the way. If possible, walk around and explore the school grounds together (be sure to check with the school first). Practice trips before school begins will help to set a daily routine. A stable schedule provides structure that a child can trust and feel at ease.
Meet the teacher and visit the school.
Call the school and ask to schedule a casual meeting with your child’s teacher in the classroom before school begins. This will enable the child a chance to meet their teacher one-on-one before the first day and become familiar with the classroom and school layout. Before the meeting, make a list with your child of questions they would like to ask the teacher. Knowing the answers to such questions as “How does snack time work?,” “Where is the bathroom?,” and “Where do I put my belongings?” will make a child feel self-confident about arriving on the first day of school.
Choose easy-to-wear back-to-school clothing.
When shopping for back-to-school clothing for young children, resist the urge to purchase adorable, but hard to maneuver in outfits. Choose play clothes that allow a child to dress and undress to use the bathroom independently, move around comfortably, explore outdoors, paint and use water, run and play. A child who is dressed comfortably and can independently care for him- or herself at school will feel in control and happy.
Decide upon personal items together.
Shopping together for lunch bags, water bottles, or other school supplies can help your child develop a sense of excitement and anticipation for school. If allowed, sharing a favorite book with the class can provide a meaningful connection to their classmates while gaining self-confidence and trust in the new environment.
Make the first day of school special, but not a circus.
It’s great to have a first day of school tradition, perhaps pancakes for breakfast or a quick photograph before climbing into the car, but keep it low key. Pack backpacks, make lunches, bathe, and choose clothes the night before. Leave plenty of time in the morning to enjoy getting ready and not be rushed or late. Respect the schedule and atmosphere of the classroom and enter on time, peacefully and quietly without photos or fanfare. The teacher has a plan for the first day of school; be considerate and follow the teacher’s lead. Greet the teacher with your child, and then give your child a kiss, say “goodbye, I’ll see you after school,” and leave. This will ease your child smoothly into the classroom daily routine.
Be honest about your own feelings.
A child who has back-to-school anxiety often is reflecting the anxiety they are feeling from an anxious parent. Be sure to be honest with yourself about how you are feeling about your child beginning school. Discuss your worries, sadness, or concerns with another adult, not your child. Keep all school conversations with your child positive and upbeat. Your child is amazing and ready to take the first step into school. Be proud!
August 10, 8:13 PM · Jocelyn Scotty - Chicago Montessori Learning Examiner
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