Sending your child to school for the first time can be nerve-wracking. To help ease your nerves, here are ten do's and don’ts to help you and your child get ready for the first day:
1) Do attend an open house or make an appointment with your child’s teacher or school social worker to tour the school before the first day. This will reduce anxiety for both you and your child—your child will see what the school looks like and have an opportunity to meet some adults. And you’ll take comfort in knowing who will care for and help your child grow throughout the next year.
2) Don’t be a “helicopter” parent. Try your best not to email your child’s teacher daily to find out your child’s every move at school. But DO check in with him or her about homework assignments and ways you can help your child grow.
3) Do give your child space at the end of the day. School can be overwhelming, especially at the start of the year. For children who have not been to school before or are in a new school, the routine and unfamiliarity can be an adjustment. Try to avoid bombarding your child with questions before you’re even out of the carpool lane. Wait for your child to lead the conversation or ask them questions later.
4) Do take note of when your child will be able to eat at school. Some children experience behavioral changes when their blood sugar dips. This is especially true for some adoptive children who may have experienced early trauma. Your perfect angel at home may take on mischievous behaviors at school if he’s hungry. If it has been an issue before or becomes one, talk to your child’s teacher about accommodations to allow him small, healthy munchies throughout the day.
5) Don’t over schedule your child. Especially at the start of the school year, there are fliers and encouragement to sign up for various extracurricular activities. Do your best to avoid overcommitting your child, and yourself. Start with one activity and see how your child tolerates an additional requirement on her time.
6) Do think about your child’s sleep patterns. Coming off a summer schedule is hard for everyone, and can sometimes result in lack of sleep. For some children, a lack of sleep can sometimes result in behavioral issues, as their bodies respond more acutely to a lack of rest. Before school starts, start implementing new wakeup routines and bedtimes, even naptimes, to allow her time to adjust before the first day. You may need to continue to adjust this once the school year begins.
7) Do be on the look-out for any signs that your child might be struggling in school. Many children require Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to help them remain successful in school. It’s never too early to ask for your child to be tested for special education services if you have any concerns.
8) Do pick your battles. Between showers, breakfasts, dressing, and backpacks, mornings can be hectic. If your daughter wants to wear her princess shoes to school, let her. If your son wants juice instead of milk on his cereal, so be it. These small concessions will make it easier to get out of the house and avoiding a fight will keep everyone on a happier note at the start of the day.
9) Do create a routine to reconnect at the end of the day. School can be hard for our adopted kids because they are sometimes prone to attachment issues. Create a routine to physically and emotionally reconnect at the end of the day to make the time apart easier on you and preserve that precious bond between you and your child. The routine can be as simple as cuddle time in front of their favorite Disney show or playing a familiar board game for a half hour. Try to avoid questioning your child about her day. This should be a time to connect on an emotional, not cognitive, level.
10) Don’t forget to have fun! School can be a hard adjustment for kids and parents alike. But take joy in this next stage in your family’s life and look forward to the holiday shows, music recitals, and sports games ahead.