Is Your Child Ready for School?

Do you remember, as a kid, that tingle in the pit of you stomach as September was rolling in? I do. Both anxiety and excitement, beginning of the school year is an experience like no other. Here’s how to make the best of it.

You’ll find that some preschools offer now programs for two-year-olds, usually a couple of hours once a week. If your child is ready for it, that is. Depending on the type of preschool (play-based, Montessori, Waldorf, parent participation) your child will be in school a couple of days a week or daily. Find the program that would suit both your child’s needs and the family’s availability for participation if need be.

Secrets to make it snappy? Read on.

  • Befriend other parents of toddlers. Register for “mommy and me” classes at the community center and visit the local playground.
  • Read books about going to school. “A Pocket Full Of Kisses” by Audrey Penn says it best.
  • Once you decide on a preschool, visit the place a few times so it becomes a familiar site and inquire about meeting the teacher.
  • Enroll your child in an “On my Own” class at the local community center. It is a good gradual entry program during she can learn about school routines and playing with new friends.
  • If you are anxious, look for our own silver lining. Rather than being apprehensive, think of it as a celebration of a new stage in your child’s life.

Your child loved her preschool; she loved her classmates and her teacher. Maybe too much, you’ll say, once you realize that kindergarten does not appeal to her as much. There could be many things she’s apprehensive about. The new school playground could be huge, and she could feel overwhelmed. Hit the school playground every now and then during the summer. Explore and play together and create some happy memories for your child to have when he’ll start school in the fall.

Don’t let your child overhear you talk about how anxious you are. While it is normal to feel that way, since kindergarten is when real school starts, your child takes guidance from you. Reassurance and a positive attitude go a long way.

Elementary School
Grade one – That’s when things get serious or so they say. Expect your child to be both excited and scared. She knows her way around the school and school yard, she knows at least one teacher and she may be excited being in grade one. But there’s anxiety too. “Who will me my teacher? Will my friends from kindergarten be in my class? What if my teacher’s mean?” These are the obvious ones, but there’s the ones that barely make it to the surface such as: “What if kids make fun of me if I don’t spell correctly? Will I make friends?”

Acknowledge your child’s worries and provide him with tools to deal with things that might happen. Go over name writing and letters if that will make your child feel more comfortable, and explain that making mistakes is after all, an important part of learning.

Get your child a new pair of shoes, a nice shirt or let her choose her own backpack as a way to celebrate the beginning of the school year. Margaret Woods*, retired teacher with grown kids and several grandkids believes that things like that can help children be less anxious. “I always got a new pair of shoes and loved walking to school in them,” she remembers. Sometimes it may be the little things that will brighten the day. After seeing many first school mornings as a child, teacher, parent and involved grandparent, Woods knows.

Older grades. By now you’ll think no stone has been left unturned. Sort of. Linda Mackenzie*, mother of two from Vancouver finds the beginning of school stressful. “I make sure they return to normal bedtime/waking up a week or so before school,” she explains. Older kids tend to push bedtime hours during summer months and that could create unnecessary havoc. Other routines that will help ease the transition, such as quiet reading time, early dinner, getting clothes ready for the next day will prevent the mad scrambling that so many families go through.

Some school rotate children every year. That could be frustrating for some and exciting for others. If your child is anxious about it, help her find ways to cope. Open talks, playtime with friends after school and sharing your own experiences about meeting new people, they all help. Explain that everyone else is in for the same ride after all, so there’s the silver lining: making new friends. Learning about changes early on fosters resilience, a most valuable skill.

Daniela is a freelace writer in Vancouver, BC. Her two sons ages five and nine, are her greatest inspiration. She hopes for a stress-free and return to the school year.

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