How to Start a Little Conversation about Something Big: going back to school (or just starting up)
Hello Motherburg readers,
Earlier this month, Donna shocked us all back into reality as her posts moved from wanderlust to adorable backpacks. Here I am, following her to the front door of school too. Below are some helpful tips to begin the conversation with your kids about returning to (or just starting) school:
For those little ones first going to preschool or daycare:
In this case, school or daycare is a new experience for the child and often for the parents too. With very young children, begin the conversation a week or so before school or day care begins. Be sure to find a balance here. Too far in advance and the conversation might not have much meaning; too close to the first school day (like the morning of) and that doesn’t leave your child much time to understand.
When dealing with this age group, focus on preparation and what to expect at school:
- begin reading books about preschool experiences
- walk by the school a few days prior to the first day to preview
- if possible, show them a picture of their new teacher/teachers. Share their name/s. Keep this picture at their level and in a common part of your home (the refrigerator door, on a bookshelf with books they often look at, etc)
Young kids need the facts here. Facts such as: you’re going to go to school. Remember where you played with the blocks and baby dolls? You’re going to see a teacher named Stephanie there and some kids. Daddy’s going with you. We’re going to put your backpack in the cubby. You’re going to build and play.
Here is one great book for this beginner group:
In this book, twins Percy and Polly get ready and then go to their first day of school.
Here’s a website chock full of other books.
For those returning young ones: These kids know all about school. They likely know a child or two in the daycare class or preschool group. They are looking forward to the snacks and or playing on the roof or outdoor playground. For these kids, here are some helpful hints:
- Talk about all the things that will be the same as they return to school. Reassure them of the familiar. Again, stick to the facts, such as: You’re going back to XYZ school. You’re going to find your hook again. That’s where your bag goes, remember?
- Prepare them for what may be different. Last year, Stephanie was your teacher. This year, Mike and Chris will be your teachers. This year, you’re bringing a lunch bag. Do you remember who is on your lunch bag? Let’s go look.
- Ask questions (What toys do you think will be in the blue room?) and also keep some conversation open ended (I wonder what you’ll want to do in the blue room… I wonder if there will be big animals or little animals on the shelves, hmmm).
Remember kids returning to school may experience a variety of emotions as school starts back up. Remain neutral and give your child the space to express their thoughts and feelings, whether elated or angry or anything in between.
Here is one great book for this group:
This is a more lighthearted one, like the other dinosaur books in the series. There are many books about first day jitters and books focused on fear. This one is focused on behavior/what not to do in school. It could be used to have a bigger discussion about what they think the rules in their new classroom might be like.
Here is another useful website from a great local resource.
For those starting kindergarten: Whether continuing at your local school or heading out to a new location, kindergarten usually means a bigger class, longer school days and more academic work. To help prepare:
- Walk by the new school prior to the first day. Have your child take pictures with you. Later, they can look at the picture to prepare.
- Play school with your kids - let them be the teacher and you be the kid. Follow their lead, listen to their ideas and see what they think is going to happen. Sometimes a dry erase board is a good addition to their pretend play items for school.
- Make a list or start a book with them about what they think kindergarten will be like or what they think will happen there. One child once told me he was worried about all the big doors there. Start this conversation with your child and keep your ears open to what they’re looking forward to, confused about or wary of.
Here’s one great book for kindergarteners:
This book covers a lot of ground: preparation and feelings the night before along with the first day of school. You’ll likely appreciate the parents’ feelings depicted in here too.
And here is a website listing many more kindergarten books.
As always go with what works for you, your child and your family. Prepare in a way that works for your life. Honestly, the best preparation is to take each school day as it comes and don’t be too hard on yourselves or your kids. Transitioning to school is a process that involves time, learning new routines and building relationships with teachers and peers. If you can hold onto the fact that each day might contain some ups and some downs, your child may be able to as well.
Thanks as always for reading this post. Enjoy the remainder of August and here’s to a great September ahead.
Vanessa D’Auria is a licensed speech-language pathologist providing home-based services in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. For more information about Vanessa, visit speechtherapyvanessadauria.com or to ask speech/language questions, email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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