How to Help your Child Adjust to School?8 min read
The first days of school can be daunting for both children and parents. There is both excitement as well as nervousness for what is to come. Kids have to learn to adapt to a completely different environment, make friends and adjust to new routines. Although there may be some rocky moments and unpleasant experiences at the start, every parent hopes that their child will gradually be able to settle right in and begin to love school.
However, many children can find this whole experience much more challenging than others. They might start crying and throwing tantrums when Mondays come around or having aches and pains in different parts of their bodies due to anxiety. Children can also become clingier and more dependent. The stress might even result in changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. As a parent, it is important for you to stay calm no matter what. Don’t panic because it is not uncommon for kids to need some extra assistance to adjust to their new school life.
Here are a few ways that you can help your child to adjust to school:
Review the first day of school
Sit with your child and discuss how the first day of school will look like – step by step. Explain how he will get to school and back, how long school will last and everything that will take place in between. Assure your child that his teachers and helpers in school will assist him with every little doubt and question that he may have. Let him know that it is completely normal to feel strange, confused and a little out of place in the beginning.
Breaking everything down to your child will help him to feel more prepared and confident to take on the first day and the days after that. Even if he needs you to talk him through his school days a few more times, be patient and reassure him that everything will be just fine.
Give your child something to keep them connected to home
For most children, saying goodbye to their parents is the hardest part of going to school. To help them cope with the separation more easily, you can give them a favorite toy, book, or an item that reminds them of a good memory with you. You could also give them a picture of the family and/or a small note to hold onto for reassurance. Writing down your number on a piece of paper or on the back of your family photo might help to bring comfort to your child as they know that you are accessible at any time.
You can also develop a practice of hugging your child and saying you love her just before she leaves for school.
Aid your child’s relationship with the teacher
When kids begin to go to school, they have to learn to adapt to a new environment under different adults than at home. A child will usually feel comfortable around new adults when they feel secure around them and also know that they can trust them. You can talk to your child about his teachers and explain that they will be there to guide him at every step of the way.
However, if you notice that your child is not totally convinced about school and/or his teachers even after a while, you could contact his teacher and discuss your concerns. Explain that your child doesn’t seem to be comfortable yet and that you would appreciate it if the teacher took a little extra effort to help him settle in.
Encourage your child to bond with other kids
Children tend to ease into the school-going process much more smoothly when they make friends and have buddies that they look forward to meeting there. Encourage your child to not shy away from putting herself out there and making some friends. Don’t pressurize her into interacting with too many children at the beginning, but assure her that she can put in the effort to make one or two new friends.
You could also ask your child who she would like to invite home to play. If you are not sure whether the child’s parents would be comfortable with sending them alone then invite the family over for a light dinner. Not only will your child be more comfortable with her new friend, but you will also benefit from the experience as you bond with other parents.
As parents, it is always exciting as well as a little worrying when your child begins school. You want to know every little detail about their day, what they studied, whether anything went wrong and so on. While some kids might be just as excited to narrate their day’s events to you, others may not necessarily be keen on the idea. If your child is giving you minimal responses and not talking much about his day, don’t press him too much.
Not every child will have a blast at school or want to discuss what happened and that is okay. Asking your child about the best thing that happened that day or the weirdest incident that he witnessed might get him to open up more than simple yes and no questions. You can always talk to another parent or the teacher, later on, to find out if anything happened that you should know about.
Resist overscheduling your child
Although as a parent you want your child to pick up as many new skills as she can when she is young, avoid piling on too much on her plate. Especially when your child has just begun school, don’t try to add too many extracurricular classes and activities to the mix. First, observe how your child is coping with school for a few weeks and then you can gradually decide what after-school activities you want to sign her up for.
Making them do too much too soon can get overwhelming and extremely burdensome.
Help your child voice his worries and brainstorm solutions
Most kids’ school anxiety is caused by fears that adults may find irrational. Your child may be afraid of something happening to you while he is gone, or he might be worried that he won’t make friends or that nobody will sit with him. The list can go on, but it is crucial that you hear your child out and validate his fears, no matter how trivial they may seem to you. Support your child when he expresses whatever is bothering him, and then try to help him come up with solutions for the same rather than giving him reassurance that may not necessarily help him.
When you empower your child by problem-solving, he will be able to come up with solutions and feel more confident to take on the next school day.
Create healthy routines
As your child starts school, it is important for him/her to get enough sleep. Don’t be too casual with bedtime routines as this can affect your child’s brain development and other activities. Kids who are not well-rested tend to struggle more with separation as well as getting through a school day. Your child will not even be able to focus on the lessons taught in school. Creating healthy mealtime and bedtime routines and sticking to them will benefit your child in the long run.
Stay connected and be available
Starting school and being away from home can make your child feel far away from you. Show him that you are still right here and will always be by displaying some extra affection. Snuggle with him just before sleeping and/or after he wakes up. Give him hugs and kisses every opportunity you get. Make sure to have some together time with your child where you speak about his day or engage in an activity like reading a storybook or playing a board game.
Also, be available for your child. Try to be a little early when you’re picking him up from school or the bus stop. Prepare your child’s favorite meal if he has had a difficult day and make sure he knows that you’re there for him if he wants to talk about it.
Pay attention to signs about what worries your child
Children usually settle in and do just fine after a couple of weeks. But sometimes their anxiety and unhappiness can be an indicator of a deeper underlying issue. Maybe they are getting bullied, or a teacher was mean to them, or they can’t see the blackboard clearly, or they cannot keep up with what is taught but they are afraid to speak up. Whatever the worry is, your child may not always openly tell you about it. Hence, ask questions about her day, and actively listen to what she has to say.
If you sense that your child hasn’t completely adjusted to school yet, try to nudge her into speaking her mind by reading books about school, playing pretend with some toys where one of them doesn’t want to go to school and so on. Don’t think twice about calling up the teacher if you sense a bigger issue.
As you prepare your child for school and to face this new season of their life, remember to be patient and understanding with them. It is not easy for every child to smoothly transition from staying at home with familiar faces to starting school with new people, so make sure that you are there for your child every step of the way and watch as he/she gradually grows to love school and have the best experiences ever.