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Note: "Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free syndicated column from The Parent Institute.

[AUG. 27, 2005]  Q: My son will be starting school for the first time. He's generally a very confident child, but I can sense his anxiety about the "big day" coming up. How can we make this experience as smooth as possible for him?

A: You're right. It is a "big day" and exciting, too! But to a young child, "big" can also be scary. Think of other ways that you might discuss it. Every child gets a little nervous about starting school. Some simply don't want summer fun to end. But there are some things you can do to make this transition as smooth and easy as possible. To get the school year started off right:
  • Talk about his concerns. If he's not exactly sure what it is that he's anxious about, read some books about starting school. You'll find many titles available. Ask your librarian for suggestions. Talk with your son about some of the concerns discussed in the books.

  • Acknowledge his fears. Describe your own first day of school. If you were afraid, remind him that this feeling didn't last long.

  • Before school starts, see if you and your son can visit the classroom. Ask for the principal's help in arranging the visit.

  • Have your son practice getting up at the new time for a week before school starts.

  • Find out where the school bus will be picking him up. Together take a few walks to the bus stop.

  • Take several walks to the school and back if he won't be riding the bus.

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  • Children often worry about using the bathroom while they're at school. Let him know that there will be one nearby and he can use it when he needs to. Include this on your visit to the classroom.

  • Be encouraging. Don't let him hear you say things like, "I'm so sad. I wish you were staying home!"

  • Plan something special for the first day of school -- his favorite breakfast, a new outfit or a trip to the park after school.

  • Assure your son that you will be waiting for him at the end of the school day and so will his favorite animals and toys.

After school, ask about his day. Show how excited and interested you are. You've made sure he's off to a good start. Now set up a home routine with regular times for dinner, homework and bed. Limit his TV time and set up family reading times. Your son will thrive on this routine and get the school year started right!

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute.

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