Don’t make excessive concern about the first grade and school in general, show them things are not perfect, be patient, give them support, introduce them to the new environment…
How to “survive” the first week of school? Who do you think is more nervous: children or their parents? How to help your child remember these days in a positive way? How to prepare them to do well in school?
I’ve already experienced what it was like a few years ago, when my older son Stefan started school. This time I was prepared for another wave of emotions and excitement with my second son, Aleksa. He has just started the first grade.
A few days before the school would start (September 1st), I’ve received a notice from my kids’ school informing us about Aleksa’s teacher. It’s a standard procedure here in Serbia. We also received an invitation to attend the celebration of the first day of school, at 6 pm, it was written in the letter. In addition, it was suggested that all first graders bring some of the drawings to school, with their names written on a piece of paper. It was said that these drawings would be used as a decoration in the classrooms, and would also help teachers learn children’s names quickly. I really liked all of this, since it made us less nervous.
We got to know who was the new teacher, and we also had time to see if there were any of Aleksa’s friends from kindergarten and neighborhood in the same class (it was very important to Aleksa, since he wanted to be close to his buddies). On the other hand, I liked the idea about bringing drawings to the first day of class. They make the environment more familiar and comfortable for the children from the day one in the new classroom.
When the “action” finally started, my wonderful boy was just overwhelmed with happiness and excitement. He enjoyed his first day of school very much. I was so proud.
But, let’s not talk so much about my emotions and tears. I thought it would be more interesting if I write about some starting school tips for parents that helped me go through this experience.
1. KEEP CALM
The most important thing is not to make so much fuss about the first grade and school in general. Children fear the unknown, and constantly talking about it can make them feel even more afraid and worried.
2. BE PATIENT
It is useful to let your child know what’s coming, but try to be patient. I spent the whole summer discussing with my sons many important details regarding school. They have heard about classes: how long they usually last, when they have breaks, and how they can use them (for instance, I told them they would be able to play football in the schoolyard during 15-minute break with teacher’s permission). We talked about what they will be learning in each class, their homework and daily routine for school days.
3. BREAK THE ICE
They were happy to hear that they can play during the big school break; that they will have 5-minute breaks between the classes, and that PE and art are also some of the school subjects. They were not afraid of school any more. Quite the opposite, they couldn’t wait for the school year to begin. Children usually know little about school before they start attending it. Help them discover it in a positive way.
4. EVERYTHING’S NOT PERFECT
Don’t let your children think that everything will be perfect at school. This is one of the best tips I’ve got from my parents. Don’t tell them there will be no problems. Otherwise, they could be confused, not expecting somebody to push them or trip them on purpose., Maybe they will not know how to deal with someone they don’t like (or vice versa) if they are not prepared for such a thing. “Mum said that everything would be perfect, but now what’s this?” – try not to let them think like this, since they will be very much disappointed.
Instead of letting your children imagine school as an ideal place, try making them realize there would always be good and bad days, especially regarding the relationship with their classmates.
5. INTRODUCE THEM TO THE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT
Help your child prepare for school by taking them see the new school before the school year starts. Let them spend at least half an hour at school, in the schoolyard, to get to know the environment. Since we live near school, my kids did just that, and it meant a lot.
6. HELP THEM GET READY
Get them ready for school. Help them pack a school bag every day. Plan out what they are going to wear the night before. Take some time and read parts of their school books (so that you can get a general sense of what they will be learning). Protect the books and notebooks using plastic covers. Show your child how to pack books properly, how to sharpen a pencil… It’s vital you teach them all these things.
7. “STUDY HARD, BE NICE”
Teach them to study hard and to behave responsibly. The first grade is the time when students get adapted to a new school life and learn more about the things they are already familiar with. Therefore, now is the time to help them develop good study habits. They should learn how to sit still in class, and pay attention, as well as how to do their homework. It’s better to teach them these things when they are younger and more prone to learning. It can be much harder to change habits badly adopted once they get older.
Finally, show your child lots of love and support when starting school. They need to feel trusted and encouraged. So, give them a big hug and tell them:
“My precious schoolboy/schoolgirl, I love you more than anything else in this world.”