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Home > Health Information > Family Health > Back to School > First Day of School

Help make first day of school a happy one

The first day of Kindergarten is an important milestone in a child’s life.

But it can also be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, both for parents and children.

Children, though eager, may  feel a bit jittery about entering this new world. “Starting school can be an emotional time for parents and children,” says Leslie Barker, Coordinator, Parenting Project with Alberta Health Services. “For children, it can be a big adjustment to get used to going to school for a half day, while parents often worry about how their childwill cope. In some cases, they feel a sense of anxiety that their child is growing up so quickly.”

Every year, some tears are shed by children and parents navigating newterritory. The good news is starting Kindergarten doesn’t have to be difficult. “There are several things parents can do to help ease the transition for their children,” says Barker. “Simple things like talking to your child about what to expect when they go to school can really help ease any anxiety.”

Other suggestions include: 

  • Book a health checkup (medical, vision and hearing; ensure vaccinations are up to date).
  • Ease your child into a new routine. Have her go to bed at school-night bed time for at least a week before the first day. Most children this age need about 10 hours of sleep a night.Get your child up at the school-day wake-up time.
  • Try a school bus run. Go over your child’s school bus route with her if it’s going tobe a first-time bus ride. Find out how long the ride is, and talk about things like bus safety and where to get off.
  • Take a school tour. Call the school and arrange to tour the schoolwith your child. Help your child find his way around the school. Locate the classroom and the bathroom. If possible, meet the teacher and principal.
  • Read books on starting school. Your local library will have many titles.
  • Make a new friend. If possible, introduce your child to a classmate before the first day of school. If not, teach your child ways to make a new friend. Friends can help each other learn about the school routines.
  • Talk about starting at a new school. Encourage your child to share his feelings. Talk about the excitement of this event. Discuss any concerns your child might have.
  • Prepare the night before. To eliminate early morning last minute rushing, get your child in the habit of picking an outfit for the next school day.You can save time by preparing lunch and packing his backpack before going to bed.
  • Serve a healthy breakfast/ lunch and pack a healthy snack. Children need nutritious food for their brains.

“Children adjust to change in different ways, so parents need to respect their child’s temperament. “When parents are calm but enthusiastic, and reassure their child about this exciting new experience, they can help their child cope.”

Barker adds that starting school is a time for adjustment for children, and they need to know that their secure base is still there in order to feel safe when exploring their new world.

Some safety tips parents should discuss with their children:

  • Make sure your child knows the rules of the road when it comes to traffic.
  • Ensure your child knows what to do if approached by a stranger.
  • If your child is taking the bus, make sure he knows the correct route and has a backup plan in case of getting lost.
  • If your child will be going to childcare, ensure she knows how to get there and what the rules are, and has met and feels comfortable with the caregiver. Recognize that the first few days of going to childcare may be stressful - try to have your child familiar with it before starting school.