First Day of School

If you have little ones, chances are you’ve seen the movie “Finding Nemo” dozens of times. You’ll recall that scene early on, when Marlin is terrified of sending Nemo off to school for the first time. He’s overly cautious, dubious of new experiences and terrified that something will happen to Nemo. Later in the movie, Dory puts things in perspective by telling Marlin,
“Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.”
Letting go of some of those fears and embracing the amazing things that are to come for your little one starting school is just part of growing up… for us parents! Perhaps you have some of the same concerns our readers shared with us:

“I am worried about the longer day. Preschool was only 2 1/2 hours and kindergarten is a full day. And I am worried that I won’t have her ready. Will she know her letter and numbers before she goes? I don’t want her to be behind.”
The longer day can be a little difficult to adjust to for kids at the start of the year, but it’s a quick adjustment. Making sure they are getting to bed and getting enough sleep each night is paramount; establishing a routine will help in all aspects of bedtime and getting up and getting ready for their day each day. Kindergartners come from all different experiences. Some have been in full day preschool/child care, some come from a part time PreK experience and others may not have experienced any kind of school environment yet. Being able to navigate that and get all those little ones where they need to be and beyond as well adjust to being a “big kid” at school is one of the many things that makes Kindergarten teachers so amazing. If you do have major social or academic concerns at the start of the year, the best thing to do is schedule a time to speak your child’s teacher as soon as possible to make them aware and work together to address those concerns at the start of the school year.

“I was worried about her riding the bus and worried she wouldn’t find her way to class initially. As time went on, I worried about how others would treat her; she is so sweet and sensitive. Was she safe at school?”
The bus can be a big deal for kids. It’s daunting and super exciting, all at the same time. If you’re worried about them getting on and off at the right spot or getting where they need to be once they’re at school, don’t be afraid to talk to the bus driver, they can always give your kiddo a little extra TLC until they get the hang of it. Also, see if there’s an older kiddo at their stop that can buddy up with them until they (and you) are a little more confident when it come to riding the bus. As far as peer relationships go, that’s something we have very little control over, other than to prepare your child, as best you can, for interacting with others. Parents start this early on, whether it’s in playgroups, at the park or day to day interactions at home. Trust that your little one will meet lots of kiddos they enjoy spending time with in and out of school.
School safety is paramount. A former teacher myself, I know that from the time those babies walk into the school until the time they go home each day, those kids are my kids. Yes, teachers are there to educate their students, but their safety and well being are top priority. If parents have specific concerns about safety, they shouldn’t hesitate to talk to the school staff about their policy and procedures so you are fully advised on everything they do to keep students, staff and visitors safe at school.

“My middle child will be going into 1st. He has anxiety (like we see a doctor kind of anxiety.) Kindergarten was an amazing year for him. He loves school, loves his teacher and friends. He grew amazingly in both social and academic areas. I’m worried about this coming year. I’m worried that he’s not going to be as comfortable and is going to hate school. He shuts down completely once his anxiety kicks in.”
Kids feed off of parent anxiety and vice versa, so the more parents can speak definitively and be matter-of-fact, the better. Remind your child what he’s accomplished so far and always take the time to celebrate the little successes. Big deep belly breaths help too. Maybe go outside and blow bubbles while talking about things causing any anxiety to reinforce the deep breathing. Also, it’s important to engage kids in anything having to do with numbers. Try counting in patterns or do simple fun math games. It’s proven that your brain can’t be anxious at the same time it’s engaged in activities that demand left brain function. Another good idea is to set some fun dates (outings, movies, etc.) to look forward to that he can focus on when he needs a happy place.

“My oldest is going into 3rd. She is academically advanced (she should be going into 2nd and is working on a 6th grade level.) I’m worried about keeping her engaged and challenged.”
Wow! Already skipped a grade and works that high above level? That’s amazing. On the one hand, a skilled teacher will recognize and challenge her. On the other hand, there truly is only so much he/she can do given the 20+ other kids in the class. Be sure to talk with her teacher and the administration to make sure she is getting the interventions needed throughout the year. Also, maybe see about other enrichment activities they may have after school like robotics or chess to peak her interest. Find activities, not necessarily all focused on the academic, that challenge her and engage her at home.

“And then my youngest… God help his teachers. He starts PreK this year. He is academically and socially ready but he just is a handful. I worry about him because he is a social butterfly. I don’t want him getting in trouble and then deciding that he hates school. But on the other hand, I also don’t want him to charm his way out of trouble. It’s a Catch 22.”
PreK teachers are a very special breed. Their patience and creativity seems to be limitless, and many days that is a good thing! So much of PreK and even Kindergarten is learning how to be a little human. The social and emotional growth children gain build confidence and demonstrate a readiness to learn. Every child who comes to PreK has that same lack of school day experience, but those teachers can work magic. Give ‘em a week and watch what happens.

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