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Schools' First Day Can Be Fun For Kids
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A landmark day for children and their parents, the first day of school can be traumatic or a long-awaited, exciting time.
Dr. Louise Davis, extension child and family development specialist at Mississippi State University, said parents can help make sure the start of school is a pleasant one.
Parents' positive attitude towards school is the biggest factor in a child having a good first day of class.
"It's all in how the parent talks about the experience and their attitude toward school," Davis said. "A child is what he hears, and whatever you expect of your child is what you get."
Dr. Jan Taylor, MSU professor of human development and family studies, said children often get overcome with emotions and don't know how to express themselves. An event such as leaving for school for the first time can be overwhelming.
"Parents can help children by listening and helping them put their feelings into words," Taylor said.
"Crying doesn't necessarily mean something bad is happening," she said. "There is a point when parents need to realize they've said and done what they ought to, and now it's time to go."
Davis said parents should visit the school with their child before the big first day. Look at the bus, the cafeteria, classroom and restrooms. Go over the child's daily schedule.
"Until age 13, children can't think abstractly, so in a concrete manner, show them what school will be like," Davis said. "You can't just describe something to a child because they don't have a picture in their minds."
Parents must talk to the child about what routines they will follow, what they will learn and what to expect.
"The more a child knows about specifics of what will happen, the easier the transition," Davis said.
Davis also suggested reading certain children's books aimed to calm fears of school. Particularly good books are "School," by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, "Berenstain Bears go to School," by Stan Berenstain and "Spot goes to School," by Eric Hill.
Davis cautioned that parents can scare children by giving too many details about school. If a parent is not careful, a child may perceive this as pressure rather than positive support and be overwhelmed.
"Above all, keep any negative stories about your own experiences to yourself and create a positive link between home and school," Davis explained.
Sometimes teachers make calls or visit the children at home before school starts. This gives the child a familiar face to look for when they arrive for class.
Taylor said parents often can predict if their child will be hesitant about starting school based on the child's reaction to other new situations. If a child resists change, parents usually have strategies to help their child cope. These parents are probably prepared for "first day of school jitters," Taylor said.
"If things don't go the way you want on the first day of school, you still have the second and third day," she said. "But if problems persist, you plan a conversation with the teacher. Together, parents and teachers can find ways to help children make happy transitions."