How to avoid an emotional meltdown on the your kid's first day of school

Published 11 July 2012
The first day of school is a huge milestone in the life of the child and the family, and for some parents the emotion can all be a bit too much.

But Dawn Burden, play expert and director of the National Book Club for Nearly Schoolers, is keen for parents to avoid the common mistake of putting their own anxieties onto their children.

"No parent wants to be the one in the playground sobbing behind dark glasses, but unless parents prepare themselves for the start of school, this is often what ends up happening," says Dawn.

"If a child looks to their parents for reassurance and sees someone struggling with their emotions it creates huge anxiety, making settling into school trickier than it should be."

For parents who feel they might have a wobbly moment at the school gates, Dawn suggests they start preparing for the moment well ahead of time.

If the parents are holding it together at the goodbyes, then the chances are their kids will "bounce into school filled with confidence rather than trepidation", she says.

Here are three of The National Book Club for Nearly Schoolers’ quirky
tips for preparing a smooth and happy start to school life for both you and
your child:

1 Buy the school uniform as early as you can and play ‘getting dressed’
games to get your child into their clothes a good few times before school
starts. Seeing your small child, rosy with pride, trying to look grownup in
a school uniform two sizes too big is bound to end in tears...so make sure
you get used to the sight! (Plus, he or she will know how to get dressed and
undressed for PE lessons!)

2 Don’t leave getting to school on time to guess work. Have a
practice journey one morning during the summer term, when other children are
going to school. Draw a map together of little landmarks you might walk or
drive past. On that first morning, you’ll both be focussed on looking for
these rather than the end of the journey...

3 Give them a tool kit!! Practise the very basics – putting your hand
up, asking for the toilet, finding a teacher if you are hurt or worried,
asking other children if they would like to play. Spend some time ‘make
believing’ being at school. This will give you the confidence to know that
no matter what happens they will have the tools to ask for help!

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