Your child's first days in school - How to make it easier

June is approaching. Play schools and regular schools are starting. Is your child going to playschool or school for the first time? This is a harrowing time for all parents and children. But if it's your child's first ever day of school, then it's a real scary thing. There is a lot of anxiety, hope, tears, fear..... A lot of parents have asked me for tips to help their kids love school as much as my little one did, from the first day. If they only knew!! :-)

My daughter Samaara was about 2.5 yrs old when she started playschool. She goes to a pure montessori school. She absolutely adores her school, her teachers and her friends. But it was not always so...The first few days were really trying and a complete emotional upheaval - for her, as well as me.

Today, I thought I would share with you our story and the lessons I learned (most of the times, the hard way). Maybe these lessons can help you have a smooth and tear-free first day of school.

1. Never say anything negative about school or studies 

This was a pearl of wisdom which was passed to me by Sam's pediatrician. When she was around 1 year old (way before we were even thinking about school :-) ) this is what he told us. "Never use school, or the teachers there as bogeymen". So basically....if your child misbehaves, or doesn't eat food, or throws a tantrum... never, ever say things like "Wait till you get to school. They will never tolerate behavior like this".... Or things like "If you don't eat I will tell your teacher. Let's see what she has to say about this"...well, you get the picture.
Don't forget that your child's teacher would be playing a mom's role when she is in school. That's the way you should always portray teachers to your child.

2. Talk about school as if it's a real fun place to be

Casually talk about the friends they would make, the things they would see, the songs they would learn....and so on. Do a real good marketing job for the school. :-) Please make sure that you don't overdo it. These should only be said where you can slip it into conversations naturally. Otherwise your child will go the rebel way, and decide to hate school on principle. :-) After all, kids always like to do things that they know you don't like. So don't make it evident that you are emotionally invested in whether they like school or not.

3. Don't try to 'prepare' your child for school and the changes ahead

This might sound counter intuitive. After all, whenever a major upheaval is going to come in your child's life, aren't you supposed to mentally prepare them for it by discussing it with them? Very valid question. And that was exactly what i did! I talked to my daughter (multiple times!!) about school...that I would be waiting right outside...that she doesn't need to cry....and all that jazz. But all it helped in doing was increasing my daughter's anxiety. It took me some time to realize that. Then I stopped talking about it. I would only say really casual things, or respond to her questions in a matter of fact way. I stopped making it a big deal...and slowly her anxiety reduced. After all that I came across multiple articles which said the same. If only I knew it a little earlier!!! It would have saved me some serious bouts of crying. :-)

4. Don't wait where they can see you
Before Sam's first day of school, when one of the preschool teachers first told me that I cannot be inside, or anywhere my daughter could see, I was aghast. What??!!! You mean I should just leave her there and let her think that I have abandoned her? No way!!!  I felt they were cruel and heartless to even suggest it. So I went ahead and stood where she could see me....And boy, do I regret it now. She kept looking out the window and weeping everyday. She just wouldn't get settled. A few days later I stayed away from her line of vision...after assuring her a hundred times that I would be outside! But her crying increased...That's when I realized she could see my parked car through the school window, but not me. This was causing even more anxiety and crying. It was roughly a week later that I started parking my car some distance away. While dropping her to school I told her that the policemen had told me not to park there, and that I would have to find a different spot. That day....she didn't cry. She was slightly tense, it seems, but not weeping. I understood what the playschool teachers had tried to tell me from their experience. For kids, out of sight does mean out of mind. When you are not in front of them, they are free to focus on, and get engaged in fun activities at school. This helps them bond better and make friends with their teachers and other kids. But this was a lesson I learned the hard way. :-)

5. Slowly cut the cord
For two months I used to tell her that I am waiting outside the school. I thought this would give her confidence that I have not abandoned her. :-) But kids....who can figure them out? Though she liked school, she wasn't getting really settled down. So one day I decided to try something out. I told her, in a very matter of fact way, that I need to go buy some medicines and will be back in time to pick her up. She was a little anxious, but I assured her that I would be back, and then changed the subject before she could brood over it. And then when it was time to pick her up, I was at the gate two minutes before time. I did this every day, quoting different reasons, for 3-4 days. This worked like magic. When she realized that I trusted the school people enough to leave her with them, her attitude towards them changed. And when she realized that I would always be there, on time, when school leaves, she felt less anxious. Soon she would ask me where I had gone that day. That's why I said....slowly cut the umbilical cord. Your baby is ready to fly.... :-)

My daughter can’t wait to go to school these days. Sometimes I can even get her to do stuff by telling her I won’t let her go to school if she doesn’t do what I say. :-)
Every kid has a temperament…and a nature that only the mom would know. What worked for me and my daughter may not work for you. There will definitely be some trial and error involved for each child. But at least some of the tips I mentioned above will help you in your journey.
Do you know of any other tips? What has worked for you, or your friends? Or do you have any questions? Please let me know by leaving a comment…..


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