The end of summer is often dreaded by kids who don’t want to go back to school, but it can be especially challenging for youngsters starting school for the first time.
Mary Dwan King, director of Mrs. Park’s School, which operate out of Leaside United Church on Millwood Road at McRae Drive, said she tells families it’s normal for kids to be anxious about leaving their parents or caregivers.
“Really, who wants to leave their parent, home and safe place to go somewhere where they have no idea what may happen?” she asked.
To get children used to the idea of going to school, she suggests arranging a time to visit the child’s classroom and meet the teacher prior to the start of classes.
“It’s very important,” Dwan King said. “It creates a memory.”
Janet MacDougall, executive director of Yes I Can Nursery School, on Yonge Street north of Lawrence Avenue, said they hold a meet-and-greet prior to the first day of programming, which can be beneficial to kids going to school for the first time, or starting at a new school.
“We have some activities set up and the child gets to come in, play a little bit in the classroom, see what school is all about, meet the teacher and see some of the other children that will be coming,” she said.
Putting a photo of the school or of the future student in front of the school on the fridge can also spark conversations and help prepare them for the first day of school, she said.
MacDougall also suggests takings kids on a shopping trip for a special bag to carry their school belongings and reading a story about going to a new school.
Rather than asking kids if they want to go to school, Dwan King suggests, parents should talk about specific activities they will partake in during the day.
“It’s a more positive approach and gives the child something to look forward to,” she said. “Opportunities to have brief times away from a parent prior to starting school also builds confidence.”
Dwan King says if a child does wind up having significant separation issues when school starts she tells them to bring in a transitional object that reminds them of home.
In addition to getting children on a sleep schedule for school the week before school starts, Leslie Grant, director of the Lawrence Park School, on Bayview Avenue south of Lawrence Avenue East, said parents shouldn’t linger when dropping their kids off.
“Even if there are tears, your child will adapt faster without any drama or clinging or 10 hugs from us,” she said. “Be positive and matter of fact (and) show them that you are confident in their ability to settle into their new routines.”
She also believes children are sensitive to family stress so parents should be careful about sharing any worries they may have about school around them, and to avoid saying things like “Oh, I am going to miss you so much.”
The benefits of starting now to help transition to school life can be useful to more than just kids.
“Sometimes the tears are more from the mommy’s end than it is from the son’s end,” MacDougall said. “So everyone gets eased into it.”