“First Grade is a nightmare and I’m never going back!” Sounds familiar? After the initial shock of hearing such a reaction from this little boy, it made me wonder what is it that could cause such a negative response to a first day of school. I remember those days with nostalgia over how careless and happy they were! Sure, we had our first set of responsibilities and first difficulties making new friendships work… but we were still generally happy to be around our school buddies and especially the first few weeks of a school year were always exciting!
When my daughter entered elementary for the first time, she wasn’t as cheerful as I was hoping either. Her biggest complaint was that “there are no snacks, no naps and we didn’t get to play!!!” I could go on complaining about the current test system and about children being pushed too hard and too soon. I personally believe in individual approach and making school fun to keep the children interested. But I am also aware that there is only so much each teacher can do, considering the school’s goals and restrictions. So instead, I’m offering few tips on how to get through the first few months that may be difficult for your little student.
- Basic needs first!
Make sure your children get enough sleep. If they fear going to school, they may have trouble falling asleep. Help them end the day on a positive note. Read a funny bed time story, sing their favorite song, share a special memory with them, or even plan your next family trip! Anything to set a positive tone! Breakfast of champions? You may want to skip the donut shop and get an egg instead. Rather wake up ten minutes earlier than rushing them or skipping the morning meal all together.
- Get to know your teacher!
Explain to your children that they don’t have to be necessarily “teacher’s pet” but it is important to get to know one another. The more comfortable they feel around their teacher, the more likely they are to learn something. It will be easier to ask questions and it will help them to learn how to build relationships with new people in general. Encourage them to ask for help when needed.
- Why is it a nightmare?
Try to find out what is the main cause for their worry. Is it the new environment? Are the new rules the cause of confusion? Is someone being mean? Is the work too easy and they get bored – or are the tasks too difficult for them? Whatever it is that is bothering them, let them talk about it. Be patient and don’t jump to suggestions and conclusions too soon. Remember that to them, these problems are just as big as any “adult” problems are to you.
- Prevent homework overload!
Any transition can be challenging and your children may face a set of new rules and responsibilities that they didn’t have to worry about previously. Help them get organized. Some children are visual, some learn by listening, while others may need to be playing games and be in constant “action” in order to learn. Pay attention to your child to see which learning style fits them the best. While teachers tend to switch between these styles to accommodate all children, you have the opportunity to customize. Break down the children’s responsibilities, make a list, or make it a fun game: dress up to read a book, practice math by counting football catches, turn spelling practice into a treasure hunt! This creative time will cost you some extra effort but will be very well worth it in the long run!
photo credit / Duke Morse Photography