Sunday Post: Close-Up: Simple Tips for First Day of School Anxiety

Jake at Time after Time has a Sunday Post Challenge and every week he provides a theme…this week’s theme is CLOSE-UP.

I know I’ve used this photo before…but it personifies “CLOSE-UP” perfectly.

Do you practice attached parenting?  Are you a helicopter mom?  Have you encouraged your child’s independence?

No matter what type of parent you are, you may be experiencing some anxiety as you send your child off for the first day of school.

Many children also have concerns about school.  Will they like the teacher?  Will the other kids be nice?  Will they find their way around the maze of hallways and classrooms? (I get lost when I do school visits)  Will they ever see you again?

Here are five simple steps that will make the transition from home to school smoother.

1.    Have an upbeat, matter-of-fact, positive attitude about school.

2.    If your child has not been there yet, arrange for a visit before school starts.

3.    Connect with parents of other children in the class and have play dates with your child’s classmates…children feel more at ease when they see friendly faces in the classroom.

4.    If you don’t have a routine in place for bedtime and getting-ready-for-the-day-in-the-morning time, put them in place now.  Make it a habit to discuss plans for the next day in the evening and lay out clothes and anything else needed the night before.  When school starts, your child will be used to getting things ready and you won’t have that last minute rush in the morning to find the missing shoe or backpack.  Regarding bedtime, please make sure you are allowing plenty of time for your child to get ready (brush teeth, wash, lay out clothes and necessary items, story-time, etc.) and still be getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

5.    Make sure your child is eating a good breakfast in the morning…when school starts, this will be even more important.  My younger son loved pizza.  Some children might prefer eggs and toast, cereal with fruit and milk, French toast and bacon or pancakes with fruit toppings.  How about peanut butter and banana on whole wheat bread?


Many times, children who are fussy eaters become better eaters when you let them help out in the kitchen.  If you are looking for some simple child-friendly recipes, Show Me How! has one hundred of them and teams each cooking activity with a picture book suggestion and a quick and easy eco-friendly arts and crafts project.  You can order a copy on my website at less than 50% of the cover price.  The book is available for shipment to Canadian residents also!

Studies show that the quality time you spend with your young children now has a positive impact on their school performance.  This is a great opportunity to get a wonderful resource you can use on a daily basis, year after year.  Show Me How is an award-winning book endorsed by parents, teachers and national organizations such as the JDRF.  To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you need to be in their lives today.  This is a book that makes it easy and fun to be in your children’s lives today!  Don’t put it off until tomorrow!

Another thing not to put off until tomorrow: if you’d like to nominate your child’s school or other childcare facility in the Show Me How School Initiative, please don’t forget to leave a comment with the school’s name.  If you don’t have young children, but know people who do, tell them about the free book their child’s school can receive!

Want more information about Jake’s Sunday Post? 

And here are some other bloggers who are doing Jake’s Sunday Post…click on a link and travel around the world:

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Show-Me-How Story-time with Miss Vivian Travels to Chicago

Downtown from the lakefront, Chicago, IL, USA

Frank Sinatra sang songs about many of the cities that he loved…New York – San Francisco – Chicago.

After a fantastic long weekend in Chicago, I’ll have to echo some of his words (written by Sammy Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen):

Chicago is one town

That won’t let you down

It’s my kind of town.

I arrived on Friday morning and spent the day relaxing with my son and daughter-in-law at their home.  Visiting with them is like going to a spa…they LOVE to cook “healthy” and every morning they start the day with a bowl of fresh fruit…mangoes, papayas, bananas, apples, peaches…drizzled with a little honey.  For lunch each day, my son made a huge vegetable salad bowl for each of us…cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, mushrooms…all topped with some capers and a splash of aged blueberry balsamic   vinegar.

My book event, Starting School Jitters Be Gone, on Saturday at Lollie, a children’s boutique in Evanston, just 20 minutes north of downtown Chicago, was so much fun!  This shop is an amazing place…filled with many handmade and locally designed clothes and accessories, as well as other unique items for infants, toddlers and children.  The owner is knowledgeable, helpful and a really lovely lady…I know if I lived in the Chicago area, I’d stop in there for any new baby gifts I needed, as well as for birthday and Christmas presents for any little ones on my list.

Of course, Mother Nature had her own plans for 11am, the time the first presentation was to start.  The skies over the entire Chicago area darkened, and the heavens poured forth a torrential rainstorm, accompanied by huge claps of thunder and crackling flashes of lightening. 

Inside Lollie, however, everything was bright and cheery.  A group of young children listened attentively as I read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  As the story about Chester unfolded, the children heard how the little raccoon, anxious about his first day of kindergarten, learned a secret from his mother that helped him overcome his fear and go to school with eager anticipation. 

After the story reached its happy conclusion, I showed the children a sample of the craft project and explained how we would all be making “Kissing Handprints”…deciding who we loved and who loved us and then drawing in the features for each person (or pet or stuffed animal) on each finger.

Parents and children clustered around the craft table and we proceeded to draw an outline of each child’s hands.  The hum of happy children, busily engaged in a constructive activity with their parents, is definitely music to my ears.  “This finger is going to be my mommy” said one little girl.  “And those are my dogs” she added.

The storm had ended by the time the second presentation was over.  My son and daughter-in-law, who had brought me and had assisted during the program, helped me pack everything up.  I’m looking forward to my next trip to Chicago…Lollie’s owner has invited me to come back to do another program, whenever I’m in town.  Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking is available at the shop for those of you who are in the Chicago area.

The next few days were filled with family visits, an afternoon at the beach – unbelievable to have a REAL sandy beach with what looks and smells like the ocean (it’s really Lake Michigan) right across the street from the downtown area of a major city – and an architectural river boat cruise.  It was difficult to leave…I’m already looking at my calendar to see when my next jaunt to Chicago will be.

My next post will be a review of a children’s book, A Reel Cool Summer, written by Martha Rodriguez.  We connected online and she loved my book and did a great review of it.  I brought her book on my trip and was able to share it with my great-niece and great-nephew…they absolutely loved it and were totally engaged in the story…so  in my next post, it will be my turn to tell everyone why they need to run out and get a copy of Ms. Rodriguez’ fun-filled book for children ages 6-9.

Photo credit: Thanks to JCrocker for the Chicago skyline pic.

Why I LOVED the start of school

I know that many parents are anxious about their child starting school.  I’ve addressed that in previous posts as well as how to help a child who is anxious about going to school.  I began thinking about how I felt when my children started school: EXCITED, EAGER and HAPPY, and how my children felt about going to school: as far as I know they were EXCITED, EAGER, and HAPPY. And, even though it was a very LONG time ago, I can still remember how EXCITED, EAGER, and HAPPY I was when I started school.

So what did my mother do all those years ago to help me and my sister look forward to going to school with eager anticipation?  I know that I tried to copy her winning formula when it came time to send my own children to school. 

  • My mother had a matter-of-fact, upbeat and positive attitude about us going to school.  I never heard her say anything negative about the school or our teachers.  Children are so very sensitive to our emotions…if we are tense and anxious about something, they probably will be also.
  • We went to a neighborhood school, so we knew many of the children in our classes.  Try to make sure that your child has visited the school before the first day…you can also try to connect with other parents of his classmates and arrange playdates so that your child will feel more comfortable with the other children.
  • We got a new pair of SCHOOL shoes and a new outfit to wear on the first day.  And, when we got home from school each day, we took off our school clothes and put on play clothes.  Somehow, that made “school” a very special place.  Encourage your child to lay out his clothes the night before each school day…this will help lessen the last-minute rush in the morning.
  • My mother encouraged us to bring friends home after school (she was a stay-at-home mom…as were most moms in those days).  Whether you have a career or not, try to set aside some time, perhaps on the weekend, to enable your child to get together with some of her classmates.  Maybe you can form a group with several parents and alternate having a little monthly party to celebrate one of the children’s birthdays, a holiday or whatever you wish.
  • She loved hearing about our day at school…she was a great listener…what we did was important to her and she was happy to help us with homework or studying.  In the early grades, I can remember sitting at the kitchen table and having her help me cut and glue magazine pictures.  When I was in high school (and even in my college years), I can remember sitting on the floor at her feet, pad of paper and pen in hand, asking her, “Mom, how can I start this paper?”…and she would throw out several ideas and off I would go, scribbling like a maniac.  Often, I would wind up changing the beginning that she had suggested, but her encouragement and willingness to help gave me the courage to trust my own inspiration and creativity.  Try to be there for your child…always be ready to listen.
  • As the school year progressed, my parents attended as many school functions as they could, whether it was a meeting with the teacher or a play we were in.  This showed me that what happened at school was important to my parents, and therefore, to me.  Do your best to fit school functions into your schedule…if you are not able to attend an event, make sure there is someone else there to represent you so that your child doesn’t feel you don’t care…because then he might not either.

So why did I love the start of school: I believed my parents loved it also, I had new clothes and new shiny shoes, I was going to spend the day with friends, I knew my parents loved me, and I felt that school (and learning) was IMPORTANT.  When my children were ready to attend school, I tried to recreate what my mother had done for me.  And I hope that my children will do the same for their children.

    Great ideas for end-of-summer fun!

    We just got back from a five-day vacation in the mountains of Colorado.  The weather was perfect.  The fishing was great.  The cabin was outfitted with everything you could need…even a flat-screen TV which we never turned on because we were too busy during the day having fun outdoors and too tired at night to even want to watch anything.  Cell phones don’t work there and we didn’t bring the computer.  And I began to realize how life was like in the days before TV and computers and phones.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the technology that allows each of us to know what is going on in the world the moment it happens.  But it made me more aware of how much closer a family could be if they were more isolated from all that is happening out there or if they made an effort to spend time together without the distractions that usually keep us going in different directions.

    So here’s a list of a few great ideas for end-of-summer fun that might possibly bring your family closer together and won’t cost a fortune:

    • Go camping…even for the day…but overnight, if possible.  Rent equipment or borrow it from friends if you don’t already have what you would need.
    • Check out local parks, museums and art galleries.  Some are free and many have special deals for families.  You might even purchase a museum membership that entitles your family to special museum privileges during the year.
    • Have an end-of-summer get-together.  If your child is going to school (or nursery school or daycare) this year, see if you can find out who will be in his/her class or group.  Invite the children and their parents…what an awesome way to help your child start the year already knowing some of his classmates.  The get-together can be a pot-luck with everyone bringing something to eat so that the burden of food is not all on you.  Also, have each family bring a favorite game…there will certainly be plenty to do.  Take lots of pictures and have your child help you make a collage or album of this special day.  He/she can bring it to school for show-and-tell…great for a child who is anxious about the first day of school…something like BILLY AND THE BIG NEW SCHOOL by Laurence and Catherine Anholt.
    • Plan to have dinner together as a family, if possible.  And please, turn the TV off and don’t answer the phone if it rings 🙂

    That’s it…just a few simple suggestions…hope they help you end the summer on a high note and begin the school year in a positive way.

    Why are parents anxious about sending their children to school?

    For the past couple of days, I’ve been sharing my thoughts about the 1st day of school and how to help your child with any fears or anxieties he may have.

    But, what about your fears and anxieties?  Many of you have concerns about your child attending school and the concerns can mushroom as your child gets older.  That’s probably why many parents are turning to homeschooling in recent years.  According to an article in USA Today (1/2009) based on a government survey, homeschooling increased 74% from 1999 to 2007.

    So, what are some of the top fears and concerns you may have about sending your child off to her first day of school?

    1. Your child may be bullied or hurt by other children.
    2. Your child may be made fun of because of his name, appearance, or style of speech or clothing.
    3. The teacher may not be structured enough or may be too structured or may not understand your child or may not be attentive enough to your child.
    4. There may be unsafe conditions at the school.
    5. Your child may be in an accident traveling to or from school whether he walks, takes the bus or is driven by you or another adult.
    6. Your child may hear things or be taught things that are not acceptable in your home.
    7. Your child may be afraid or too shy to speak up for herself (to ask to use the bathroom or if she needs something).
    8. Your child may not “fit” in.
    9. Your child may reveal a family secret or personal information.
    10. You may miss your child.

    The key word in each concern is MAY….we are worrying about possibilities, not actualities.  Tomorrow I plan to blog about some steps you can take (other than keeping your child at home) that address many of these concerns and may alleviate some of your anxieties.

    Also, I’m sure there are other concerns that I haven’t mentioned.  Why not post a comment and share yours?

    Are YOU anxious about your child’s 1st day of school?

    Yesterday, I blogged about the fears and anxieties young children have about starting school and how you can help your child approach the first day of school with eager anticipation.

    How about YOU?  What feelings do you have about your child starting school?  Happiness?  Sadness?  Fear?  Relief?  Anxiety?  Or a combination of all of those.

    In SHOW ME HOW!  BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING, I point out that we help build our children’s self-esteem when we acknowledge and accept their feelings, both positive and negative.  This principle holds true for you as well.  It will help to acknowledge and accept the way you feel about this new stage in your child’s life.  Once you do that, you can think about why you feel the way you do and work towards resolving any negative emotions you have.

    What are the top 10 fears parents have about sending their children off to school?  I’ll post a list tomorrow.

    Is your child anxious about starting school?

    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?

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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 where Elizabeth Kennedy is hosting a blog carnival about this topic.