There are so many articles and suggestions for parents on preparing children for their first day of school, but how do parents prepare for leaving their child behind on the first day of school?
Once you’ve taken your child’s first-day photo, dropped them off at school, you may ask yourself: “What now? What is next for me?” It’s a big adjustment.
As a teacher, educator, preschool director, preschool teacher, and everything in between, here are my suggestions for preparing yourself and your child for their first day of school!
Before school starts
As you prepare your child for a trial-run to school, drive past their new school building, or practice getting ready in the morning. Make sure that you, as the adult, are taking in all of these moments too. This is an important part of your child’s life that they may or may not remember because they are so young, but for you, it’s a memory that will last forever. Take your time.
Tell them stories about school and what you remember. It doesn’t always have to be great stories about how wonderful school can be. Be realistic with your child and tell them the truth. Let them know that school might be difficult at times, but it will also be wonderful and fun, too, just like life.
The night before their first day of school, as you are both choosing their outfit and preparing a lunch for the next day, do that for yourself too. As a family, everyone should choose their clothes for the next day so that no one is guessing at what they will be wearing. Make lunch for everyone on the first day. That could become a fun tradition where everyone in your family eats the same lunch on the first day of school.
First-day jitters and joys
In the morning, when everything is chaotic and everyone is very busy getting ready, make sure to take some time to breathe. The first day of school only happens once a year and your schedule and routine will become easier as the year goes on.
When I was a preschool director, on the first day of school, I would have coffee and donuts for all the parents. I would have them assembled in the back of our school’s gym area so the parents could still hear and see their children if they wanted without their kids knowing. Some parents found it more difficult to say goodbye than others on the first day, which for me made sense, because everyone’s family was different. There were some parents who would only have one cup of coffee, then go to work, while others stayed most of the morning or day. Every case was unique. Being able to sit with the parents and tell them what their child was doing in preschool at certain times throughout the day really helped calm their worries.
Asking the school principal, director, or teacher about your child's daily schedule is a great way to engage in what your child is learning and doing at school. Even if your school director doesn’t offer coffee and donuts on the first day, go get some coffee or something you like, and treat yourself. It’s OK to be good to yourself.
For those parents who didn’t want to stay at the preschool on the first day of school but still felt emotional, I suggested they take the morning off and go have breakfast with another parent, by themselves, or with a friend. This helped the parents understand that life will be a bit different once school starts. Taking some time together, by yourself, or with a friend after your child is off to school gives you something to focus on when you are feeling all of your emotions about it.
Parents are people too and preparing for the first day of school can be very difficult. Remember to give yourself grace. Have a wonderful first day of school, parents and caregivers!