No doubt about it, the first day of school — whether it be kindergarten, middle or high school — is an exciting time. But for many, that first day brings a good case of the jitters that can seem overwhelming. A little preparation and the following helpful hints can go a long way in settling that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling while setting a positive tone for the coming school year.
The night before
• Whether it's a row of hooks or a laundry basket, make sure you have a "school stuff" area ready where your child's backpack, athletic uniforms, sweater, umbrella, etc., can be snatched up in an instant.
• Lay out that first-day-of-school outfit. Allow your child to weigh in now on what to wear to avoid any arguments in the morning (and make sure it complies with the school dress code). Younger children should be dressed in comfortable outfits that are easy to maneuver come restroom time. Those who are ambitious might want to organize a week's worth of outfits, keeping in mind the days your child needs sneakers for PE or clothes that can withstand a little paint in art class.
• Prepare that school lunch and stash it in the fridge. If your child is buying lunch, have the payment ready. For younger children, put your payment in an envelope and label it with your child's name, the teacher's name and what the payment is for. Better yet, pay ahead online at www.mylunchmoney.com.
• Pack the backpack with essential first-day-of-school items — in particular, pens, pencils and a notebook for older students who might have to take notes. Be sure not to load your child's backpack down with all the required classroom items on the first day. Instead, send them in stages over a week's time.
• Review your child's class schedule, making sure you have an extra copy to keep at home.
• Go over safety rules for bus riders, bike riders and walkers.
• Address any anxieties your child might have about the first day. Be calm and positive and remind your child that even adults experience those first-day jitters from time to time — whether it's a classroom teacher or a mom or dad starting at a new job.
• Get your child to bed early to assure a good night's sleep.
• Set the alarm so you don't oversleep.
• Get up early and eat a good, healthy breakfast.
• Grab that backpack and go. Car riders in particular should leave plenty of time for traffic backups that are guaranteed during the first week of school.
• Be sure to part on a "have a great day" note. Make it short and sweet — especially if it's your child's very first day of pre-school or kindergarten. If you're dropping your child at his or her classroom, help your child better adapt to the new surroundings by avoiding the urge to linger or peer through the classroom windows. If you have the time, go ahead and commiserate with other first-time parents at the "boo hoo" breakfast that many elementary schools offer.
• After the school day is over, make time to talk. Find out how your child's first day went and share how your day went, too. Be sure to contact your child's teacher immediately if there are any concerns. If the day went well, go ahead and fire off a nice e-mail or note to your child's teacher letting him or her know that, too, as that simple gesture can help open doors for communication throughout the school year.
• Yes, some teachers do assign homework that first day — so after a snack and a little down time, get your child started on that. Fill out any required paperwork that has come home for you. Repack that backpack and get ready for the second day of school.