This photo is of my son going off to Kindergarten 6 years ago! Even after all these years of practicing heading off to school, there are still a lot of jittery feelings around the house as we are getting ready for a new school year to begin. But, over the years we have learned a few great ways of calming those first day jitters and making it a less stressful time for everyone. (you included!)
Calming those first day jitters before the BIG DAY:
Get the kids involved!! They may be enjoying their last few days of loafing around, but it helps everyone concerned if your kids help with the preparations of school. Doing things like back to school shopping for supplies and clothes starts to change their mindset and makes them feel more ready.
Also by giving them some decision making opportunities you are building their confidence and feelings of being in control. Shop for school lunches and have them pick their favorites. Even the youngest of students can help with picking out a backpack, new crayons or snacks.
Think about the big schedule change to come. Sit down as soon as you can and familiarize yourself with this year’s school schedule. Most kids will have to start an earlier bedtime–Start easing into your new schedule at least a week in advance. Getting up earlier in the few days before school will naturally produce a sleepier kid at night-or so we hope!
Don’t discount the need for en evening routine. Getting things started the night before sets you up for a successful morning. Have your kid do as much as they can of what normally happens in the morning the night before. My middle school kid will have to leave really early this year, so we are planning on packing lunch as much as we can the night before as well as laying out his clothes and having his backpack ready by the door.
Be flexible with your routine. Decide on a morning and evening routine to help you through those first days–and then modify it as needed.
Take advantage of any activities the school may have. Locker Day, End of Summer Bash, Supply Drop-off Night–there are usually a few opportunities to get kids thru the schools doors even before the first day. Whether it means being back on familiar ground or learning all about a new school, visiting the school before the big day will defiantly calm nerves. It always helps to see familiar faces or get to know a few new ones. If you school does not offer any pre-school activities, call and arrange for a tour or ask if you can drop off supplies before the first day.
Don’t be afraid to initiate conversations about feeling nervous. Nervousness is normal but some kids definitely feel it more than others. Starting back up at school is a big transition time that stirs up a lot of feelings.
Engineer the time and space to have those conversations – they won’t happen unless YOU make them happen. Initiate more one on one time in the days leading up to school. Tell stories about yourself feeling nervous about school. Older kids may be able to articulate their feeling a bit more than the littles. Try asking things like, “What are your worries about the first day of school?” , “Are you nervous about anything in particular?” “What are you feeling in your body when you think about school?” “Is there someway that I can help ease your jitters?”
Don’t dwell in the negative. Be as positive as you can about school. This one is BIG–Kids do what you DO, NOT what you say. So show some enthusiasm and excitement about the first day of school. These feelings are catchy. If they see your excitement and enthusiasm, they may wonder what all their worrying was about!
What if I do all this prep and my kids are still nervous?
Even with lots of prep, you may still have a nervous Nellie on your hands that first day. Sometimes its little things, that get their minds off their worries, that can soften the jitters:
- Make them a special breakfast,
- If time allows play a quick game of cards in the morning
- Take a walk before school
- Pack an extra special lunch,
- Give them a little trinket to hold in their pocket to let them know you are always with them,
- Write a special note in their lunch(unless they are in middle school and then it might backfire!)
- Plan something to look forward to after school.
Unfortunately school can be all about fitting in–at least at first—so anything to help with feeling one of the gang is great. I let my son bring a few “junky” items in his normally uber-healthy lunch the first week. I also make sure his favorite clothes are clean and ready to wear.
These feelings may continue for awhile…..
Remember, this is a transition time. It may take several weeks for your child to feel comfortable at school. A new sleep schedule, the overwhelm of homework, and the stress of social situations can all cause kids to not be at their best cheerful self. Your kids may be cranky for a few weeks.
Do your best to keep positive and make sure there is space for conversation. Plan for lots of downtime, be careful not to fill up their schedule too fast. Stay close. Help with homework and watch them closely.
We institute a 15 minute sit and rest time immediately after we come home from school. WE ALL just plop on the sofa and chill–sometimes we read or do nothing. But its a great way to make space for some big feelings to come out—and also to just be close.
Please share you best calming ideas in the comments–I’d love to hear what helps you.