Banish Back-to-School Jitters

Back to school can be exciting, yet a little bit scary, for both kids and parents.

Whether your child is transitioning from one grade to another, or is making the big leap to kindergarten, the following tips from Wake County Smart Start will help make the experience a positive one for everybody.

Before School Starts

  1. Send a note to the nurse and to the teacher if your child has allergies or special needs, even if you’ve already indicated this on other forms.
  2. If there is a set day to meet your child’s teacher and visit her classroom before school starts, make sure to participate. If not, call to arrange a quick visit with your child.
  3. Routines are comforting for children. To reduce stress and get used to new routines, adjust bedtimes or wake-up times a few weeks before school begins. Read a soothing bedtime story every night to help your child fall asleep with comforting thoughts.
  4. Label backpacks, lunch boxes, and everything your child brings to school, including her! Make a nametag with your child’s name, address and a phone number where a parent/guardian can be reached, the name of the teacher, and how your child gets home from school.
  5. Read books together about starting school. Ask your local librarian for suggestions, or try some of these: Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate; Seven Little Mice Go to School, by Kazuo Iwamura; Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, by Eric Litwin; Yoko Learns to Read, by Rosemary Wells.

First Day

  1. Be positive. Give your child a smile and a hug, tell her you love her, and wave goodbye.
  2. Saying goodbye in a new setting can be frightening for some children. Reassure your child that you will see him later. Mention a specific time and activity, for example, “I will pick you up before lunchtime and we will have lunch together.”
  3. Avoid behaviors that might upset your child. For example, try not to cry; don’t battle over outfits; and don’t force him to eat a big breakfast.

First Week

  1. Be supportive. Ask, “What was the most fun thing you did in school today?” Then ask, “What was the hardest thing for you?” Don’t expect your child to tell you every detail.
  2. Instill a sense of confidence in your child. Celebrate his successes. Say you’re proud of the way she got on the bus by herself, or the way he tried to print his name. Don’t dwell on how many friends she has made. Instead, say, “Tell me about some of the children in your class.”
  3. Set aside a time each evening to share your child’s day, and look at his drawings and classwork.  After a few weeks, ask what she played with in the classroom, what stories the teacher read, if he went outside, etc. Listen for clues about your child’s strengths and challenges. If you have concerns, contact the teacher.
  4. Read everything the school sends home. During the first weeks of school children bring home a wealth of information about school routines, important dates and meetings that you will need to know about.

– Janis Strasser, National Association for the Education of Young Children,

For more helpful tips, visit Wake County SmartStart at

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