4 tips to make the first day at school an unforgettable memory for parents and kids
1. No big smackers at the school gate
The first day at school ranks among the major events in family life. Birthday, christening, enrollment in school – emotional milestones which are generally accompanied by a celebration. Parents release the reins on their children another notch when they start school, allowing them a little more independence to quench their thirst for knowledge and feeling glad that they will still be in good hands. Naturally, there is absolutely nothing against having a piece of celebration cake with the immediate family in the afternoon but it is perhaps going too far to invite the entire family gathering at the school gate or in the classroom. The same goes for goodbye kisses in the schoolyard or soggy tear-stained handkerchiefs – obviously the first school day is an emotional day for parents but moderation is called for – overreaction is unnecessary and can unsettle the child.
2. Independence is the new order of the day
It is often the little gestures which help children to become independent. No more wiping toothpaste smears from the corners of little mouths for mom and dad – it should be a routine part of everyday life for the children to do it themselves. When school starts, if not before, mothers and fathers will see their kids growing in independence with each passing day and getting used to remembering their gym bag or homework. The transition will work most effectively if parents trust their children to do these things themselves.
3. No hasty character analysis
Parents know their children inside out and back to front in a way nobody else does. You know if your little telltales are grumpy in the mornings, and you are just as familiar with their favorite size of apple chunks as with the innermost secrets of their hearts. And so you should – but this is as far as it goes. Teachers don't need to know these peripheral little pieces of information – and certainly not on the first school day. Anecdotes, idiosyncrasies and detailed character analyses have no place in the classroom. Any psychological special needs assessments relating to above-average ability levels or attentiveness disorders are also best discussed one-on-one with the teacher.
4. Allow schoolchildren to make their own friendships
Friendships are important and parents also take a significant interest in the schoolmates of their own children. The issue is not so much the fear that their children might make friends with "the wrong crowd". The main issue by far is that parents want to make new friends too – with the parents of their children's fellow pupils. This can make life easier for parents and children but it should not be the number one priority on the first day at school. It can be tempting for parents to start networking when they are waiting in the schoolyard but the children should be allowed to choose their own friends and make their own social arrangements. After all, who doesn't like to decide who to spend the afternoons with!?
Bags at the ready... steady... go!