Education, Elementary, Parenting

First Day of School Jitters

by Jenni Evans

Tips and strategies for easing your child into the school routine

            Whether this is your child’s first school experience, or he is gearing up to head back to the classroom, there are some things you can do to ease the transition from the less demanding days of summer to the school routine.

            Some children are eager to start – excited about the new environment or to get back and see old friends. But others, especially first-timers, may be anxious and unsure. Resist the urge to express your own excitement. “Don’t worry, you’re going to love it! They have paint and trucks, and Miss Jenni is the best!” That can make your child feel like something is wrong with her feelings.

            Also, school may not be THE BEST, especially at first, and that’s OK. Be sure to listen for any insecurities, and reassure her that her feelings are normal and that you have some good ideas to help.

            Getting ready

            Go for a visit (or hopefully you have already if school is just starting!)  Set up a time to see the classroom and let your child meet his teacher. Find out where important things are, such as his cubby, the lunch area and the bathroom. Check out the outside play area and the spot where you will pick up your child at the end of the day. Ask the teacher about the day’s activities. The opportunity to become familiar with the school routine and surroundings without the confusion of opening day will help a lot.

            Before the first day, talk about what your child can expect. Will she know any of the children in her class? Read books together about starting school and be positive about the activities and teachers without going overboard. Don’t paint a picture so glowing that your child could be disappointed if her experience doesn’t meet the expectation. Let her know you will want to hear about her day.

            The big day

            Being away from home means another grownup is in charge. Remind your child that the teacher will tell her the rules and that she can always ask about anything she needs to know or forgets.

            Make sure your child has what he needs to be successful. Send him in comfortable, cool clothing that he can play in and manage on his own as much as developmentally appropriate. Also, remember your child will have an easier time adjusting to the new environment and routine if he has had enough sleep and a good breakfast.

            If you are worried about separation issues, check out the policies at your child’s school and make a plan. Can your child bring a “lovey” or a picture from home? Will you be encouraged to stay for a while to help your child get adjusted? Or will a teacher give your child some one-on-one attention?

            Heading home

            Be on time for pick up and bring an easy-to-eat snack with you for the car ride home, if you know your child is going to be hungry. It is hard to have a cheerful reunion and talk about the day when one of you is cranky. Many children will not want to talk about school. That’s fine! But when he does get to talking, show interest in all of his feelings and experiences. Don’t ask too many questions, just listen. You can follow up later with questions or ideas.

            Give your child unstructured playtime at home. Now that your child spends more time in a structured environment, her brain can use more free time at home. Don’t be surprised if your child is exhausted for the first few days. A good school curriculum may keep your child busier than she has ever been – physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s a lot!

            Get to know your child’s teacher and get involved in some way with the school. As a parent, your relationship with the school and your confidence in the teacher shows your child you think it is a good and safe place.


Jenni Watts Evans is a parent educator and assistant director at the Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital. For more information, call 504.896.9591, visit or email

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