With the arrival of September, the time comes for children to return to school. Seasoned veterans of the back-to-school routine already know what awaits them after the summer. For some however, the experience is completely new, while others have observed older siblings wishing they could pass through the doors of knowledge, enjoying the same experiences as brothers or sisters. When it comes to teenagers, some start with a little less motivation, and others with a little bit more enthusiasm, but they are veterans with the first day of classes, they have been doing this for at least nine years, so they know perfectly well how it works.
However, everyone has something in common, the butterflies in their bellies which, no matter how much of a veteran you are, can appear on that first day of school. Many children hide it quite well, or the excitement of seeing teachers and friends again hides any anxiety they may feel about the adventures they will face in the new school year. However, the nerves are not only felt by children but also parents, who in many cases can unwittingly transmit their anguish to their children.
It is normal that doubts arise, such as: Who will be their tutor ?; Will they do better this year in science?; with the new class groups, will they get along with new classmates ?; What if he or she has a bad time at school?; What if he or she doesn't get to grips with the maths?; What if a classmate hits him or her?; What if they’re given a lot of homework? ... And the list goes on and on. This can overwhelm not only children but especially parents who place their full trust in the educational center to care for their most precious treasure.
So what can be done about the imminent situation of the first day of school?
- Many experts agree that, regardless of whether it is the first day of nursery, kindergarten, primary or secondary education, one of the golden rules in preparing for the transition from summer to back to school is to establish, at least a week before, the routine that is intended to be maintained during the school year. In this sense, it is imperative to establish bedtime and waketime; as well as mealtime, as close as possible to the one they will maintain during the academic year. It is also suggested that they are entertained with similar activities as the ones they will carry out during their school day. The aim of this is to make the return to the regular schools routine a little more gradual and easier.
- In the case of little ones who start kindergarten or preschool, parents can help with the transition by taking them to school beforehand, for them to familiarize themselves with the facilities. Ideally they should meet their teachers and even practice some activities with them. Tasks such as to how to paint or tell little stories, which will closely resemble what they will do inside the classroom, could be practiced at home.
- Another golden rule that contributes to fostering excitement aroundthe return to school is to allow children to participate throughout the planning of the new school year. Everyone still remembers visiting the bookstores to get the material for the new school year, or how fun it was to choose a trendy backpack. In this case, making children active participants in the purchase of school supplies, uniforms, and school enrollment, not only allows them to familiarize themselves with the idea of starting school but also encourages the excitement around the experiences they will have in the new school year. If this process is accompanied by positive anecdotes from either or both parents, it will be an unforgettable moment for the child.
- It is normal that on the first day, especially the little ones, shed a few tears. Parents should respect and normalize the feeling of anguish that the child may have when facing a new situation. Of course, they must arm themselves with the courage to be able to wave them goodbye at the door, avoiding as much as possible that the farewell is lengthened too much. When parents demonstrate the security they need, they will feel safer. Younger children receive emotional signals from parents, so they must transmit calm, tranquility and security to their children. Keeping a smile along with a happy disposition will give the child the courage to face this new situation.
- Most schools offer adaptation periods for all children, especially with the youngest ones, they are usually quite flexible. It is possible to negotiate to carry out this adaptation for small periods, extending the departure time a little more each day, until their absolute adaptation. Sometimes they also allow them to take an object to class, such as a stuffed animal or a blanket that accompanies them throughout the day and is an attachment figure. For this reason, it is always good to maintain open communication with the tutor who is the one who will guide how this adaptation will take place. The teachers of the educational centers are prepared to handle this process, so in case of doubt as to how it will be carried out, it is always good to consult with the expert, in this case, the teachers.
- Talking with your children about what will be done when at the end of the school day can contribute favorably with adaptation. First when events are anticipated it makes the unknown known, and second, it also gives them the certainty that the day at school has an expiration date which will allow them to meet again with mom and dad.
- When that first day of school ends, receiving them with a huge smile is the best reward you can give them. It is always important to provide words of support that praise the achievement of having stayed at school all day. Asking about what they did, showing interest and being surprised by the things they have learned during their hours away from their family environment, gives children motivation to return the next day with more new stories to tell. In the case of the less chatty, it may be advisable for parents to initiate the conversation, telling them a little about their workday, in this way parents model with their behavior what is expected of the child.
Be careful if after the first day of school there is a clear rejection of the school environment. It can be manifested by violent opposition, big tantrums, headaches or stomach aches, vomiting or diarrhea, these symptoms disappear completely when the child doesn’t go to school or when they are withdrawn from the school environment. In those cases, it is important to detect what is happening inside the center. If the situation persists, you can consult an expert like a psychologist or approach the counselling department of the school who can advise you of what should be done in these cases.
Each child is different, therefore, you have to be patient and persistent during the adaptation process, allowing children to adapt to the unfamiliar situation by motivating them in every possible way. Constant communication with the school for keeping tabs on how the adaptation is going is the key to this transition being made successfully, providing vital information that calms the anxiety that any parent can feel before the new experience. Likewise, the smile on your children's faces after the storm passes, when they have become familiar with the environment and have established relationships with their peers, are the best indicators that the test has been passed and that they are in for nine months of unforgettable moments.