With the end of the summer only a couple of weeks away, you’re probably thinking about your child’s first day at elementary school. Children in the US generally start school a year after kindergarten, around age 5 or 6 and the school year usually begins just after Labor day (this year that’s around 5th September) but it very much depends on where you live.
Yes, a big change looms for your child but there is lots you can do to prepare them for this exciting chapter in their young lives. Rather than being the mom (or dad) blubbing at the school gates, fill your child with confidence because the journey that lies ahead will (hopefully) be a fantastic experience. It’s up to you to arm your little one with the enthusiasm he or she needs to get the most out of their school days.
So what can you do to make the transition an easy one?
If you are worried that your child isn’t prepared for big school with his or her education yet – stop! It doesn’t matter if your child doesn’t recognise numbers or letters yet, they aren’t expected to fully. They will have some understanding of early education from kindergarten but elementary school is where they will learn and within a few weeks you’ll be amazed at the level of information they will have!
Of course, it’s always useful for you to help in preparation so use flash cards for letters and numbers. Teach them the alphabet or revise letters and numbers if your child already has a good grasp. Count up numbers with them too. Whenever you’re out and about with your child, point out signs and read them out loud. This helps them with recognising words and will also help them when it comes to reading and writing.
Once they start elementary school they will be taught how to read and write, they will even begin to learn simple math such as adding and subtracting. Different kindergartens teach different things so don’t worry if there are kids at your child’s new school who seem to know more, every child catches up.
Make New Friends
If you know there are other children starting the school year with your child then that’s great. This means that your child already has a ready-made circle of friends but there are many children starting a brand new school where they don’t know anyone at all.
Your new school should arm you with plenty of literature well before the start of the school year. Within that literature will be a list of children starting alongside your child. Depending on the school, they may or may not give out other parents’ contact details. Obviously these details are private and some parents don’t want their contact information shared with everyone. If you don’t have details of other parents, you can telephone your school and request them. The school should be able to contact other parents on your behalf and ask if they are prepared to give out their contact details. Generally, parents are happy share their details via the school and if you get hold of them, you can arrange some playdates before the start of school. This helps your child to get to know other children before the big day and also gives you the chance to get to know other moms (or dads) close by.
Uniform / School Clothes / School Supplies
Some schools want you to wear specific uniform, in which case you’ll get a list from your school. If you haven’t yet purchased it, make it a fun day out with your child and take them to the uniform outfitters to get everything that’s required.
Other schools don’t have a uniform policy which means you can grab the opportunity to go and buy some new clothes with your child. Let them choose some of the items too, so they feel involved in this grown-up task but do choose items that are washable, wearable and durable – after all, your child is bound to get messy!
Do remember to label every item with your child’s name. Things get lost so don’t risk it; school clothing and school supplies can become very expensive if your child keeps losing them and they’re unnamed! Iron-on labels or sew-in labels are best as they don’t wash out. You can purchase labels for school supplies too, or use magic marker to name every item.
Dress them in their school clothes before they start so they get familiar with them especially if they have buttons, zips and shoe laces. Your child should feel comfortable with doing up clothes so show them how to fasten buttons or anything else that might seem tricky for them.
Arm them with a cute backpack and lunch pack if they need one and let them be the ones to choose their favorite. They might want a particular character such as a Disney Princess or a Minion for example, so let them select what they like. This will add to the excitement of big school!
Visit The School
If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good idea to take your child to see their new school before they start. Even if you have already done this, you can re-visit or drive past regularly so they become familiar with the building.
Most schools offer special visits or have open house days and these are great opportunities for children to see their classroom and where the toilet is, for example! During these visits, you should also meet your child’s teacher. This is a great opportunity for your child to familiarise themselves with who’s going to be teaching them. That way, their new teacher won’t be a complete stranger on the big day.
Talk About Your School Days
You should also talk about school enthusiastically, tell your child about when you went to school and what you did (even if you hated school!). Tell them how grown up they are and how exciting it is to be older.
The Big Day
On the big day, remember, it will be a tiring one so it’s best not to plan too many activities the day before or after school. As hard as it sounds, try not to cry when you see them off to class because it will make them feel emotional and could possibly start off their own tears. Stick a smile on your face and if you feel like crying, wait until they’re inside the school and then sob your heart out if you must!
On a final note, remember, every child goes to school. Some children find the adjustment harder than others so be prepared for a turbulent few weeks. Be patient, your child may well be emotional but they will settle down eventually. The teachers are well-equipped in dealing with emotions at the start of elementary school and will make the transition as easy as they can. If you feel your child still isn’t settling by mid-term, you might want to chat it through with one of the teachers to understand if there’s anything else bothering them. Schools should always be open to parents and welcome the interaction.