4 ways to ease the first-day jitters
Being prepared physically and mentally makes a world of difference
The first day at kindergarten is certainly challenging. Your heart brims with pride as you marvel at how your child suddenly looks so grown up in a school uniform, but at the same time, your head is filled with anxious thoughts about how your little one will adapt and thrive.
It is helpful to mentally prepare your child for this milestone in their social development. Brace yourself for the logistical challenges in the early school days, and be prepared to be an emotional anchor for your child as you embark on this journey together.
1. Introduce the concept of school
Even as your child may be used to being dropped off at playgroup sessions, it is always helpful to go through the concept of school with your little one. Go through the first day at school with them using a story book or watching an animated series. There are plenty of popular shows, such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Peppa Pig and Caillou. Also, bring it up in your daily conversations: it can be when you are walking past the school, or talking about his/her play buddies.
2. Be prepared for early releases and pick-ups during the first month
Kindergartens usually provide K1 students with two to four settling-in periods to help them get used to the school. The first week often involves having the parents accompany the children for a one-hour session, while the following weeks will be a matter of dropping your child off at school for two or three hours and hanging around in the neighbourhood in case the school should call for an early pick-up because of a melt-down. Working mums need to take this into account when planning leave and child-care arrangements.
3. Look for stress pointers
At such a tender age, a child may not be giving you a concrete answer of how his or her school day went. Answers like “I played with toys”, “the other children played with me” or “I don’t know” are common but not exactly helpful for concerned parents. Instead of verbal cues, be aware of stress pointers, such as loss in appetite and mood swings. Also look out for regressions such as not being able to sleep through the night or increased frequency of toilet accidents. But children are resilient and they are more likely to cope well if they feel secure and loved at home. Nothing can go wrong with one more cuddle, one more kiss, and saying yes more often when the little ones ask if you’d like to play with them.
4. Expect differences but choose your battle
Make a list of what is important to you as a parent, and what made you choose this school for your child to keep things in perspective as you navigate through the differences between your parenting style and the school’s culture. For example, some parents may choose to overlook the inclusion of sugar-laden biscuits as part of the weekly snack menu but will request that their children not be fed whole grapes, which are a widely recognised choking hazard.
Some parents may shrug at the occasional typo and funny English grammar in schoolwork, but be vehemently against the use of negative words in classroom regulations. To build up trust and a healthy relationship with the school, ask to chat with the class teacher from time to time, and form a connection with fellow parents to stay up-to-date about what happens in the classroom and in school.
You can also find solidarity and collective wisdom from parents who have been there before. Here are a few tips to help ease your mind and smooth the transition.
Nappies, spare pants and socks: Some kindergartens are more relaxed about toilet-training K1 pupils and will allow them to stay in nappies until they feel confident about doing their business in the loo only. But most kindergartens, especially the local ones, expect your children to be able to stay dry until toilet breaks. It does no harm to check with the school if it is alright to pack a spare nappy in the school bag. While most kindergartens provide a spare uniform for that purpose, being able to change into clean underpants and socks will make a child more comfortable and secure in times of toilet accidents.
School cardigan: Most classrooms in kindergartens have ridiculously cold air-conditioning, so the school cardigan will come in handy. Cardigans are also important during after-school commutes on public transport or the school bus. You can ask the teachers to help your little one put on their cardigan in the classroom as they greet you when you drop off your child.
Wet wipes and a hand sanitiser: Many parents are worried about their children getting ill because kindergarten pupils are prone to illness and sickness spreads quickly in the classroom. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually rampant from September to November, not to mention the looming threat of the cold and the flu, and the occasional tummy bug adds to concerns. Pack a small bottle of hand sanitiser or a bag of wet wipes in your child’s school bag so that you can ensure those little sticky hands are clean before your child has a snack or heads for the playground.
Name tags/labels: Before school starts, visit a stationery shop to get those cute little stickers and put your child’s name on them. It is a great way to get children excited about going to school as their parents help them put those stickers on their water bottles, snack box and textbooks. Sharpie markers will come in handy when writing your child’s name on the label of the school cardigan and blazer, and on the inside of their shoes which will be taken off during indoor play sessions in school.