September is here again and with it the beginning of another
school year. The first day of school can be an emotional
experience for both parent and child. It is best for parents
not to voice their fears to the child. Instead of warning the
child about what might happen, anticipate any problems and take
appropriate steps. Teach your child to become a problem solver
himself so that he will be able to handle most situations. If
you feel confident, the child will sense this and begin to feel
There are some things you can do to avoid potential
problems. It helps to take the child, new to the school, to
visit the school before the other children arrive. Most schools
are open and you are usually welcome to look around. This gives
your child an opportunity to become familiar with the school in
your presence before being sent off to cope with it alone.
Meeting places can also be agreed upon at this visit. If you are
going to pick him up in the car, he can see where the car will be
parked and waiting for him. This helps to give the child a
feeling of being in control and knowing that somebody is aware of
where he is and that he is not all alone.
At that time, you could also agree upon some system for
what happens if someone other than the parent or sibling has to
pick him up. Sometimes a password may be useful. He should go
only with the person who knows the password.
Children should know their addresses and telephone numbers.
Names should not be printed on the outside of children’s
possessions. If a stranger calls them by name, they may feel the
person knows them and it is okay to go with him or her.
Children usually are very tired the first week of
school. It is best just to be available when they come home and
provide some quiet time. They will not appreciate being
interrogated about what is happening at school. Be patient, they
will tell you when they are ready. Let them know you are there
to listen when they are ready to talk. Also that they can tell
you anything. You are their best friend and best friends do not
keep secrets from one another. It is important for children to
understand that telling a parent a “secret” is not betraying a
confidence. When a child does tell you something that he thinks
will upset you, try to respond calmly. Do not say anything that
might make the child regret he told you. Together, you should be
able to solve all problems. Remember, you really are your
If your child comes home from school the first day and is
very upset because he does not like the teacher, or he does not
like his classmates, or he does not like the food in the
cafeteria, or there is too much work, or whatever, listen
sympathetically but resist the temptation to take over and
immediately solve the “problem”. Most of these complaints are a
normal reaction to the anxiety of the first day. Do not tell him
he should not have these feelings. He has them. Try to respond
to the feelings behind the complaints. ” You’re feeling
overwhelmed with the beginning of school and you seem anxious
about how it is all going to turn out” might be one sentence you
could use. He just wants to be understood, he does not
necessarily want you to rush into school to solve the problem for
him. If you do that, he may not want to tell you anything again.
Given encouragement and a sympathetic adult who listens to
them, children are able to resolve initial problems very well.
By the second week of school, most children are enjoying not only
their new competence but the new school experience.