The start of school for young children usually goes one of two ways: filled with excitement or filled with anxiety.
It's a slippery slope trying to figure out their feelings about school. As a parent, you don't want to put too much pressure on your child and cause more anxiety, but you also want him to know what a fun and special place school will be!
Here are some easy ways to gently build excitement about school:
1. Start slow. A few weeks before school starts, bring it up in casual conversation. "It will be so fun to eat breakfast together every day before you catch the school bus." Talk about something school related daily so your child is continually reminded that it's coming. ALWAYS keep the conversation positive, even if your child is expressing doubts.
2. Establish a routine. Young children thrive on a predictable routine, so this is KEY. Encourage your child to help you create a schedule. For an added bonus, let them make pictures of each part and you write the words, so your child takes ownership. Then, post it somewhere easily visible.
A sample schedule might look like:
Get dressed in school clothes
Put on shoes/coat
Read books/watch show
Leave for bus/drive to school
The more you can stick to a routine, the easier your mornings will be! Giving your child a feeling of control and knowing what is expected will help to alleviate feelings of anxiety.
3. Practice makes perfect. No one (not even adults!) enjoys going into a situation they know nothing about. A few weeks before school, go up to your child's school and walk around. Let her see the playground, peek in the doors and practice walking on the sidewalk. Show him where the buses pull up or where the car riders are dropped off. Let your child ask questions and explore. Do this as many times as she wants! The more familiar your child is with his new surroundings, the better!
4. DON'T make a big deal out of school. If you have a child who is NOT looking forward to the start of school, the more you talk about it, the more she tends to worry. Questions like "aren't you getting excited for school?" Or "don't you want to learn to read?" can actually cause even the most confident child to panic about the unknown.
Instead, try initiating conversation about things you know your child likes. If she loves playing outside, make your conversations about what new playground equipment she might get to use. If he loves coloring and drawing, talk about what kinds of paints or markers he will get to experience. Play into his interests and watch his fears melt away!
Remember, you, as the parent, have a tremendous influence on your child's attitude about school! A positive transition into this new environment will make school a safe and inviting place to be.