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  • Writer's pictureBret & Amber Tueller

First Day of School

Advice for Parents from Parents and Teachers

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; kindergarten is a full day. I am worried that I won’t have her ready. Will she know her letters 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 ready for their day. Kindergartners come from all different experiences. Some have been in full day preschool/child care, some come from a part time Pre-K experience and others may not have experienced any kind of school environment yet. 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 to your child’s teacher.

“I was worried about her riding the bus and that 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 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 kid at their stop that can buddy up with them until they (and you) are a little more confident. 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. Trust that your little one will meet lots of kids they enjoy spending time with in and out of school. School safety is paramount. 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, his teacher and friends. He grew amazingly in both social and academic areas. I’m worried about this 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. Maybe go outside and blow bubbles while talking about things causing any anxiety to reinforce 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 engagedin 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 is working on a 6th grade level). I’m worried about keeping her engaged and challenged.”

Wow! 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 a teacher 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 offer 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... heaven help his teachers. He starts Pre-K this year. He is academically and socially ready but he 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.”

Pre-K 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 Pre-K 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 Pre-K 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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