With just a few days left to July, all parents know that school is just around the corner.
Do you have a young child who is anxious about starting school? Is it his first experience away from home? These days, many children do have experience at nursery schools, daycare, and other facilities where they have taken part in sports, dance or other activities. Even those children, however, may be fearful of a new school, unknown teacher, and unfamiliar children.
How can you help relieve your child’s anxiety? What can you do to help make that first day of school one of joyous expectation?
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings. We sometimes gloss over their fears and anxieties by telling them, “It will be fine. Don’t worry about it.” Worse still would be a response of “Don’t be a baby! There’s nothing to be afraid of.” For that child, there obviously is. Perhaps it would be more helpful to just listen if they are expressing their feelings. Maybe you can share similar feelings you might have had as a child.
- Visit the school before the first day. Many schools offer opportunities for new students to spend some time in a classroom before the term starts. Take some photos of the school, classroom and your child in that setting and hang the pictures in your home. This will help your child feel more comfortable about going to this “new” place.
- Read one or more of several children’s picture books that target the anxieties young children have regarding the first day of school. During my years as a kindergarten teacher, daycare provider and mother of three, I used picture book stories to help children cope with many of the issues they faced as they were growing up. Teaming up the story with an eco-friendly craft project and a child-friendly healthful cooking activity is a great way to encourage discussion, build self-esteem, and create a life-long parent-child bond.
Here are 3 books and accompanying activities that might help your child face the first day of school with eagerness and anticipation instead of reluctance and anxiety.
TAKE A KISS TO SCHOOL: written by Angela McAllister (For the craft activity, you can make a food chart using pictures cut from magazines and pasted on a piece of construction paper. What foods do animals eat? What foods do people eat? For the cooking experience, make pita pocket (instead of the coat pocket into which Digby put his mother’s kisses) sandwiches using store-bought whole wheat pita bread, chicken sliced from a baked chicken cutlet, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and mashed avocado.)
BILLY AND THE BIG NEW SCHOOL: written by Laurence Anholt (For the craft activity, you can make a bird feeder using 2 slices of stale bread broken in small pieces, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup chopped carrot or apple and some nuts. Make a ball, press a piece of string into the center and roll in 1/2 cup wild birdseed. When hardened, hang on a tree and watch the birds feed. For the cooking experience, make breakfast granola using 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal, 1/2 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds, 1 Tb honey, 1 Tb canola oil, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Put all ingredients, except raisins, into a large microwave-safe bowl and mix well. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir well and microwave for another 2 minutes. Stir well again and microwave for 1 minute. Stir in the raisins and let cool. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 4-5 cups of preservative-free delicious granola.)
THE KISSING HAND: written by Audrey Penn (For the craft activity, you can make clay handprints. I still have the ones my children made almost 30 years ago. You can use store-bought clay or make your own. Work the clay into a ball and roll it flat…about 1/2 inch thick. Put the flattened clay on a piece of cardboard and position your child’s hand, fingers spread slightly, in the center. Help your child press her hand into the clay. Let dry overnight. For the cooking experience, make thumbprint cookies. Cream 1 cup canola oil and 1/2 cup honey in a large bowl. Beat in 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla. Gradually add 3 cups flour and 1/2 tsp salt. Roll a tablespoonful of dough into a ball and then roll it in a saucer that has 1/2 cup sugar in it. Put each ball on an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing the balls about 2 inches apart. Press down lightly on each ball with your thumb (or your child’s thumb) and fill each depression with jelly or jam. Bake 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees until the cookies are lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet when cooled. Makes about 4 dozen.)
I hope this helps parents with children who are anxious about the first day of school. I know it helped mine. For more information and support on this issue, go to http://childrensbooks.about.com/b/2010/07/28/august-blog-carnival.htm where Elizabeth Kennedy is hosting a blog carnival about this topic.