Plain Talk about When
Your Child Starts School

      The first day of school is a milestone in your child's life. Your understanding at this "turning point" is important to the child's future attitude toward school and to his or her healthy growth and development.

      Experts in the child mental health and development emphasize that you; the parent, can play an important role in starting your child off with the self-confidence needed throughout life.  This self-confidence is built upon good feelings about parents, about authority figures at school, about other children, and about himself or herself as a worthwhile human being.

 Here are some things for you to keep in mind:

1. Recognize that the day your child first goes off to school is an important event. Realizing this can help you to make it a positive experience. It is the first major separation from the secure and familiar world of home and family, and it marks entrance into a new universe of friendship, learning and adventure - a world that parents can never again entirely share. Your greatest gift to your child at this time is your loving support and understanding.

2. Remember that learning to like school and liking to learn are closely related. Your child's first school experience can contribute to a good or bad attitude toward school in the years ahead.

3. Prepare your child for the new school experience by explaining what to expect and answering all questions honestly. Children need to know the number of days and length of time they will be in school as well as how to get there and back. A child may be anxious, and needs to know details in order to handle the stress involved. Working mothers and fathers should make certain that the child knows the arrangements for before and after school care.

4. Convey a positive attitude about school. If the parents show enthusiasm for what the school experience can mean the child is more likely to look forward to it.

5. Make transportation plans clear to the child. If he or she is to walk to school, walk the route together a few times before and after school starts. If there are other children from your neighborhood who are of the same age, see if they can walk together. If a child goes to school by bus, go to the bus stop with the child and help the child identify the vehicle. Encourage older children to watch over the younger ones. Once the bus arrives, be direct, say good-bye and allow the child to board alone. If the child cries, try not to overreact, in most cases the tears will soon disappear.

6. Create a normal routine atmosphere at home the first few days of school. Do not deny or avoid the uniqueness of the situation, but do take an active interest in what your child tells you about school when he or she comes home. Be a good listener, allowing time to talk about school and people there.  Don’t ask, “Did you have fun at school?”  Instead ask, “What did you learn today?”  “What story did your teacher read to you today?”  “Did you make a new friend?”  “Can you tell me the name of one of your classmates?”

7. Give your child free play time at home. Now that your child spends more time in a structured school environment, you should allow more free time at home for play.

8. Get to know your child's teacher. Get involved with PTA, volunteer your services in school or check out ways you can help improve school conditions if you are unhappy with them.

9. Encourage your child for the good things he or she has done. Remember there is more to be gained from acknowledging the positive. A pat on the back for the right answers can go a long way. Too often we tend to focus on poor performance and behavior.

10. Treat going to school as part of the normal course of events, something that is expected of your child and accepted by you. If your child appears nervous about going to school, discuss his or her concern. Show understanding and offer encouragement. A calm, matter-of-fact, positive attitude is your goal. Don't argue the issue of school attendance: it is required by law.  Talk about going to school the next day by saying, “When you go to school tomorrow…..”

11. Plan your day so that you can spend time with your child. Be available when your child needs you. Be sure there is time to talk about school and the happenings of each day.

12. Let your child settle the quarrels or difficulties that may arise with school friends. Usually, unless children are harming each other physically, it is wise not to rush to the rescue. Try to let them work out their own differences.

13. Help your child cope with occasional frustrations and disappointments at school. Learning to cope with all kinds of experiences is important to development and helps prepare for the stresses of life.

14. Avoid comparing the child's school experiences with how brothers or sisters or neighbors did when they began school. Such comparison can be harmful to a child's self-image. Each of us is different, and we meet life's turning points and experiences in our own way.

15. Think of yourself as supporting and helping your child's development - but not as "protecting" them from a world about which they must learn.  In rare instances when a child does not accept school after several days, or when fearfulness and feeling distress appear and persist, the child may have a problem. At this point, you should seek advice from the school guidance counselor, the teacher, the family physician, school psychologist, community mental health center staff or others who may offer expert advice.   With firm, patient, reassuring handling of the child by parents and teachers, usually the child soon will feel comfortable away from home and will make friends and learn some interesting, exciting things.   What is important for the child's emotional health is that, having faced and mastered a new challenge - with support from others - the youngster has helped to build his or her own feelings of self-confidence and security.

Peachtree Elementary School - IB World School 5995 Crooked Creek Road Main:770.448.8710
Fax: 770.417.2451