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A Survival Guide For The First Day Of School


Starting nursery or preschool is a new chapter in your child’s life (and yours). It is a big step towards independence, especially if up until this point your child has mainly stayed at home. The days leading up to the first day of school are probably going to be an angst ridden time for you –  so many things to do, schedules to balance, and of course the mixed feelings about your little baby growing up.

The first day of school is a huge milestone. It might be accompanied with smiles (if you are lucky) or big tears and at its worst howling and tantrums.The way your child reacts to this situation depends on whether they are use to being outside of home, without you, for extended periods of time (for example at daycare). Nonetheless, whether you have a carefree or an anxious child the following tips have been suggested by some veteran moms and might ease some of your worries.



Prior to the big day

  • Visit the nursery or preschool with your child, prior to the beginning of the school year. Get them acclimatized to their new surroundings and, if classes are already in session, give your child a glimpse of the fun they will have once they start school.
  • Try to introduce your child to the class teacher before school begins. If possible, arrange a meet up within the school premises a few days before school begins so that the teacher is not a complete stranger to your child on the first day of school
  • Institute the school bedtime routine at least a week in advance so that your child is in the habit of sleeping early and waking up early so that the risk of being overtired, when school begins, is mitigated.
  • Start practicing the school morning routine at home so you and your child are not stressed out on D-Day. Start waking up your child at the same time they would for school, feed and bathe them at the same times and try to get them use to leaving the house (to go to a playgroup, park, etc) at the scheduled time so they get use to their new routine.
  • Try leaving them alone with family or friends for an hour or so and practice saying goodbye and leaving them without your company for some time.
  • If your child is older (at least 3 years old or can understand stories) read some books about going to school. A few good books include, The Kissing Hand (by Audrey Penn) and First Day Jitters (by Julie Danneberg). Both these books, and many more, are great ways to prepare your little one for starting school.
  • Talk to your child about some of the fun activities they will be doing at school, and especially highlight activities that align to their interests. For example, “you will have a music class everyday where you can sing your favorite songs” or “there will be story time everyday” or “you will get to climb a jungle gym or play in a sandbox in school”.
  • Go shopping for school together and let your child pick out their lunch box, backpack, etc. These preparatory activities might help your child get excited about the first day of school.


The Big Day

  • Wake up early, so that you don’t have to be in a hurry, to avoid having a stressful situation in the morning.
  • Pack your child’s favorite foods for snack time and/or lunchtime to promote familiarity on their first day.
  • Let your child take a familiar object, like a small stuffed animal, with them to school on their first day. A familiar object might provide them with comfort on their big day
  • Once you reach school, try to stay for 15 minutes or so to acquaint your child with the new children, the teacher and also play with a few toys so he or she gets engaged.
  • Try to have a goodbye routine, such as a secret handshake or a high five or a special nursery rhyme that will indicate to the child that you will be leaving. This can be a good coping mechanism as they will know what is to come next.
  • Say your goodbyes and head out of school in 15-20 minutes. Try not to prolong the goodbye and definitely do not sneak out as that will give your child some trust issues and might make them cry a lot more once you leave.
  • If your child seems very anxious, have the teacher stand with them so that they have an adult to turn to when you leave.
  • Remain positive and not show any anxiety as children can sense stress and this may exacerbate the situation. Also, resist the urge to come back if you hear them crying as this might prolong their distress and it might take them longer to adjust.


Overall, prepare as best as you can, but also brace yourself for tears. In 99% of cases children (and even some parents) will cry on the first day of school. If they aren’t feeling anxious, they might see other children crying and start crying as well- think of it like peer pressure.

Just remember you are not alone in fearing this big day and this too shall pass. Before you know it, your child will be going off to school with a big smile. And don’t forget to celebrate your child’s accomplishment at the end of the first day. Also, give yourself a big pat on your back and remember that change is inevitable and you have just started the journey of building up your child’s emotional and mental muscles to adapt to change, survive challenges and thrive in the future.


Photograph credit: Mrchrishill ;www.Flickr.com




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