First day of school

The First Day of School

Whether it’s your child’s first ever day of school, or they are returning for the new school year, the first day is a big deal. Starting at a new school is always going to be tough at the beginning. Some children find that even going back to the same school in September takes adjustment after the long summer holiday.

Children may experience feelings of nervousness and anxiety at the thought of going back to school. They may be worried about making new friends, having new teachers and learning new materials. Young children may also be worried about spending the whole day away from their parents. It is only natural to worry about change and new experiences, when we don’t know exactly how things will pan out.

As a parent you may be inadvertently contributing to your child’s stress about the first day of school. It’s really important to build an enthusiastic attitude towards school, and to pass this on to your child. You can help your child be ready for school in both practical and emotional ways.

How to Prepare for the First Day of School?

There is plenty that you can do to prepare your child for their first day of school. Making sure that everything is well-organised will stop everyone worrying about it so much.

  • Start by buying all the essentials that your child will need to take to school. As a child there is nothing worse than being the only one in the class who doesn’t have a particular item of kit. Children like to be the same as their friends. Help your child to fit in by making sure they have all the correct kit.
  • Your child will need all the correct uniform including sports kit and shoes. You’ll also need to buy them a suitable winter coat and some wellington boots. Try to find out when they are supposed to bring their PE kit and don’t forget to bring it on that day!
  • Go shopping with your child and let them choose a school bag, pencil case and stationery. This shopping trip can be a really fun way to mark the beginning of the school year and most children love buying stationery. Make sure they get all the essentials, including the right types of pens or pencils for their school year. Older children will also need mathematics equipment including a calculator, compass and protractor. If your child will be having packed lunches, you’ll need to provide a lunch box and water bottle.
  • You’ll need to buy name labels and make sure everything they take to school has their name clearly marked. There are several types of name labels, including iron-on, sew-on and stick-on. The iron-on labels are easy to apply to most types of clothing, but the sew-on ones are more secure if you have time to do the sewing. The stick-on labels are ideal for plastic items such as pencil cases, water bottles and lunch boxes.

Having all the school essentials prepared will help your child to feel better about starting school. Involving your child in the process of choosing and buying the kit will make going back to school much more fun.

There are also other things you can do to ease the transition from summer holidays to school term time, which we explore further in the tips below.

Five Tips to Make Going Back to School Less Stressful

  1. Talk about school in a positive way with your child. Share your own positive memories of your school years. Focus on the friendships they will gain rather than reminding them that they will be away from you all day.
  2. Read books about school together. There are many children’s stories that discuss the first day of school. Reading these books will help in two ways. Firstly, the content will teach your child that school can be fun and isn’t scary. Secondly, the act of reading together will prepare your child for learning to read at school.
  3. It’s likely that you and your child know some older children who have already started school. It could be older siblings, cousins, neighbours or friends. Encourage your child to spend time with these school-aged children and ask them about their school experiences. Hopefully they will share some good stories about school.
  4. If your child is anxious about being away from you all day, print out a small family photo and slip it in with their school kit. You could stick it to the inside of their pencil tin or attach it to their school bag. If jewellery is allowed at school, they could wear a locket. During the school day, whenever they miss you, they can look at the photo.
  5. Make sure your child has the practical skills for school. You can start preparing them right now. Make sure they know how to sit still, wait and listen. They should also be toilet trained and should ideally be able to get themselves dressed and undressed, so they can change into their PE kit. Buy school shoes that are easy to fasten. For example, choose velcro rather than laces.

What to Expect on the First Day of School

If you explain to your child what they can expect on the first day of school, this will make it much easier for them. Having this information will mean they are less likely to feel out of their depth or confused at what is happening.

On the first day of the school year, they will meet their classmates and class teacher. The teacher will tell them his or her name and will probably ask the class to say their names. They might feel scared to speak up, but that’s ok. They will have to sit on chairs in the classroom, and raise their hand if they want to say something. They can make friends with the children sitting nearby. The classroom might have colourful pictures on the walls.

During the first day they will begin to learn about the school routine, made up of lessons with breaks in between. They will probably have a morning break time, perhaps with a snack, then more lessons before lunch. Some schools begin with a half day, while others go straight for a full day, with more lessons after lunch. Explain that you will collect them after school and where you will meet them. Make sure you aren’t late to pick them up on the first day!

The children should expect to follow the others for the first day, and to do what the teacher asks. The lessons on the first day will probably be fun and may including reading together and drawing. If you have practised these activities with your child, it will be easy for them to fit in at school.

Remember that your child will be very tired after their first full day at school. Prepare some snacks for after school and some gentle activities that you can do together after you get home. Encourage them to talk about their school day with you, but don’t push them if they decide not to talk about it. Focus on enjoying your time together, and of course make sure they get an early night ready for day two of school.