No matter how many years you’ve spent planning for this moment, nothing can truly prepare you for your child's first day at school. It’s an emotional time, one spent worrying about whether they’ll make friends, like their teacher, not feel behind developmentally and all the other little pressure points of life.
Jo Batts, a family, relationship and marriage coach from Parenting Place assured the Wānaka Sun that these feelings of nervousness, sadness and excitement are all perfectly normal. “In most cases our own ‘first day at school’ experiences shapes how we feel about things,” Batts said, but suggested not to let your own experience tarnish your child’s. If you do feel anxious, consider speaking to another adult to help feel less alone about the emotional big day.
To help prepare for the big build up, avoid overthinking and over-talking about it, though it may seem impossible. Try and keep things light-hearted, and prepare in advance to help shift the nervousness to excitement. Batts said “perhaps take a visit together to the school in the weekend and have a look around, run through the morning routine or the walk to school ahead of time to get a little practice, pack the bag and lay out the first day outfit/uniform.” That being said, don’t try and oversell the day as life-changingly amazing, because it could lead to disappointment and tears later on.
When the day arrives, the general aim for parents is to send a message full confidence in both their child and their school/teacher. “So a short, upbeat and warm ‘see you soon’ is much better than a long, drawn out, teary or abrupt ‘good-bye’” Batts advised, and suggested even practicing the ‘see you later’ at home first so your child is comfortable with the routine. And that’s that!
If your child has a good day — fantastic! If they don’t, then lend them an open ear and listen to their complaints so they feel safe and supported. Parenting isn’t easy, but a bit of love and support can fix almost anything.