Preparing Children For Their First School Experience

Yes, it is that time of year again when schools across the nation are opening and children and teachers return to the classroom.

For those families of the very young, this is the first time their children are entering school. Consequently, it can be a very nervous time for the children and for their parents. The American Psychological Association has published some tips to help prepare families and their first time children get ready for the important event of school.

Helping Tips for First Time School Children From the
American Psycholgical Association:

1. Answer any questions your child may have about school before classes begin. Describe what school will be like and what will happen throughout the day.

2. Bring children to visit the school in advance. If possible, introduce them to their teacher, and show them their classroom and other important landmarks, like the playground and lunchroom.

3. Coordinate play dates with classmates before the school year begins. Having friends always reduces school anxiety.

4. Let children know that it is okay to feel nervous or worried when starting school. Reassure them that everyone feels a little anxious when they do things for the first time.

5. Help children establish a regular routine to get ready for school. Let them participate in making choices about what to wear, what to have for breakfast, or what to bring for lunch. Set a regular bedtime with enough time for 8-10 hours of sleep.

6. If they are particularly anxious, consider sending them to school with a small reminder of home, such as a photograph of the family or a picture of a favorite pet.

7. After the first day spend time talking to children about what happened in school. Chances are they'll have many stories. Give kids plenty of positive feedback about their new experiences.

Anxiety about starting school usually passes within the first few days or weeks. However, if kids are having excessive or ongoing difficulties (e.g., problems sleeping, frequent temper tantrums, reluctance or refusal to go to school, etc.), further evaluation may be needed. Talk to your child's teacher or family doctor. If difficulties persist, consider a referral to a mental health professional. Free public information about mental health is available on APA's consumer Web site at:
http://www.healthyminds.org

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD