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First Day Jitters – A Parent’s Guide to a Painless First Day of School

In a child’s life the first day of school can be scary, exciting, and confusing. For the first time in their lives they are set amongst other children in their age group and expected to accomplish tasks and receive evaluations based on performance. Children don’t often times think of it this way.

Kids just understand they are going away from the parents to an unfamiliar environment with other kids for a few hours a day, five days a week. The most important thing a parent can remember about working with children is that they are all different.

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My oldest daughter was very shy and meek at first, but realizing this I knew I needed to help her along, all the way into the classroom and help her say hi to other kids and get used to her teachers. She would need me or her mother to help her “break the ice” and get her going in her new environment.

My second child was a natural social butterfly and I felt she wouldn’t need her old Dad “dragging her down” so I let her loose at a safe distance and watched her flourish. Children’s natural personality comes out around the time they are ready to be sent off to kindergarten, and if you know your children it’s easy to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Other than the golden rule of “Know Thy Children”, here is a short list of things to check off before you put that backpack on those tiny shoulders and send your child off into the world.

1.) School Supplies

Most schools publish a list of supplies your child would need on the very first day of school. Take them literally and ensure every item is crossed off and then check all the items again. This transition is about giving them all the necessary tools for success. If they show up with a massive pair of kitchen scissors when they just needed a tiny pair of safety scissors, your child will be embarrassed and you may receive a phone call.

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2.) Dress Code

At such an early age, dress is not as important as in later in life. They just need to be comfortable and adorable. Make sure they are dressed appropriate for the season in clean and serviceable clothes while making sure the outfit helps display their personality and promote confidence. This sounds like a no brainer but I personally have messed it up in the past.

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3.) Subjects

Helping your kids out on necessary subjects such as remedial math, letters, and even social skills on how to play properly is not required but vital to making the first day easier on them. If they already have a leg up on the competition it will mean more confidence in the classroom and more praise from teachers and classmates.

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4.) Meeting The Teachers Beforehand

No one knows your child like you do. Take the time to talk to your teacher and explain how your baby learns best, and how it would be best to go about interacting with them. If your child is more reserved, maybe they need a little bit of coaxing to come out of their shell. On the other hand, if your child is more social, maybe they need a little bit of redirection back to their classwork and less talking with friends. 

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5.) Breakfast With Plenty of Time

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Make sure they get a good night’s rest, and early wake up, and enough time to eat their breakfast and to have a discussion with you about their fears and needs. Rushing them out the door at the last moment will send them into shock. If necessary, have them be ten or so minutes late on their first day, if you feel like rushing is going to throw them into a traumatizing situation.

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6.) Doing What a Parent Needs To Do

Always ensure your child is on time, in the right uniform, and has all the right supplies. Summing up all these points is what is resting on your shoulders alone. A lot of mishaps in their first school day are going to happen, it’s your duty to understand that none of those mishaps should be because of something you neglected to remember. Something as small as not having lunch money can severely embarrass a child and set them down the wrong path for the day, or even the rest of the school year.

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7.) Remember That This Day Is About Them

Encouraging and following up with them about their first day at school is just as important as making sure they get there. They had a huge experience and making sure that they feel positive and motivated about it is important because they have a lot more ahead of them. If they had a problem or concern, it’s important to address it before you send them out with more and more confusion which can pile up every day if you don’t help them to understand.

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There is no way to set up the perfect first day for a child because of the hectic nature it tends to bring along. Just making sure that you are there for your children, helping them with their basic needs, and providing emotional support during this process is pretty much all you can do.

Just make sure to have some of those talks the weeks coming up, let them know how fun it will be and all the great things they will learn. You can even resort to trickery, such as starting a finger painting party and letting them know that only kids going to school are allowed to finger paint, encouraging them to join and be excited about school.

At the end of the day, you are the only one who knows the needs of your children. A parent’s job is to take the steps for them that they are just too young to know about, and sometimes a little tough love won’t hurt, as long as your heart is in the right place.