The opening of a new school year is a time to mark change and a time to look forward to the growth that will take place between now and June. Your children will bring their own personalities and interests to new teachers, new classmates and new understandings, and they will be full of the energy that makes September so exhilarating.
Over the summer, the children were more exclusively yours. Now, they’re being put into the hands of caring adults who are charged with nurturing the best in each of them. Children have a variety of responses to these new routines and schedules. Some will bound into the building on the first day, ready to greet the challenges of school, embracing all its excitement and novelty. Others will be more tentative, taking stock of the newness in their own way and in their own time.
School adjustment often depends on specific stages of development, particularly for younger children. Sometimes a developmentally appropriate, naturally occurring reluctance to accept new things coincides with the start of school. This definitely makes the adjustment a little more difficult. And sometimes tension and frustration develop from the exhaustion of being “on” for so much of the day. These children who once seemed so calm and secure aren’t going backward in their development; they’re just in a place right now where they need a little more TLC and calm encouragement.
Keep your goodbyes short and positive and know that the teachers will work with your child, and with you, as long as it takes for everyone to be comfortable and happy. In almost every case, it won’t take long.
It’s also important to project your own confidence in your child’s ability to be happy at school. Talk positively about it. Let your child feel your trust in the teachers — even when it wavers. If your child is eager, accept it and be careful not to plant seeds of doubt where none exist. If your child thinks you expect him to worry, he just may have to prove you right.
Even when children are too involved to say goodbye, they do miss you and they will be eager to share their day with you — but maybe not right away. Some will want to tell you everything immediately, and others will either be too tired or too process-oriented to talk about it until later.
Even if they were in group settings over the summer, everyone will be tired for the first few weeks of a new school year. So much of their day is new, and so much of it is spent adjusting to new directions, new routines, new personalities and new activities. Put them to bed early and spend 10 to 15 minutes at bedtime with lights out to give everyone a quiet space for memories of the day to surface.
And for you, parents, I encourage you to take some time to write a little synopsis of where you see your children now in terms of their interests, skills, confidence and personality. Write down some of their new impressions of school in their own words. Then put it away until June. It will be an endearing and poignant record of incredible growth and development.