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School: Prepare for the First Day



  • Getting your child off to a good start the first few weeks of school can help your child feel positive about going to school in the future. If you seem calm and happy, your child will have a better attitude toward school.
  • If possible, visit the school ahead of time with your child, and meet the teacher and 1 or 2 classmates.
  • Before school starts, talk about the things your child will like about school. After school starts, ask about your child's day.


Even if your child has been in child care or preschool, the first day of real school can be exciting and scary. Getting your child off to a good start the first few weeks of school can help your child feel positive about going to school in the future.

If your child is about to start school for the first time, you may find the following ideas helpful.

  • Visit the school a few times before the start of classes.

    Get to know the school on the weekend. A big, new school is less scary on a quiet Saturday or Sunday. Walk or drive the route your child will take, look at the playground, walk around the school, and even look in a window.

    Many schools have specific times when you can visit. This lets your child see the classroom, bathroom, and lunch area and meet the teacher before the first day of school. Ask for a school handbook and class schedule. Talk about school activities and rules with your child so he or she knows what to expect.

  • Shop together for school shoes, clothing, and supplies.

    Let your child select his or her own backpack or lunch box and other supplies from the list given to you by the school.

  • Allow your child to feel scared about starting school.

    Do not try to dismiss or ignore your child's feelings of fear. Tell your child that the teacher knows a lot about children and will take very good care of him or her. Talk about the things your child will like about school. Talk about the feelings you had during your first day of school and tell your child something funny or positive that happened to you.

  • Prepare your child at home.

    Try to arrange to have your child meet a classmate before school starts. That way, he or she will see a friendly face on the first day. You can relieve some anxiety by playing school at home. It also helps to talk about what will happen at school. Focus on things your child can look forward to, such as making new friends and learning new things.

    Talk about how your child will safely get to and from school. Talk to your child about what he or she is likely to do during the day and what you will be doing while your child is away. Tell your child what will happen once school is over for the day. Read books together about other children's school experiences. Tell your child why you think learning is important.

    If going to preschool for the first time, have your child practice using the toilet, pulling up underwear and pants, and washing hands independently. It’s also a good idea to teach him or her to sit still and listen for short periods of time, such as during story or meal time. Being able to share and take turns is an important social skill to help your child learn to prepare for school.

  • Try to keep things calm and upbeat.

    Your child's first day of school is a big day for you and for your child. If you seem nervous and upset, your child will also be nervous. If you seem calm and happy, your child will have a positive attitude toward school. Keep things upbeat and calm as he or she eats and gets ready for school.

  • Start your child’s day with a healthy breakfast and a good night’s sleep.

    A bowl of cereal or a waffle, some fruit, and milk is a great way to get your child’s body and brain in gear.

    One to two weeks before starting to school, put your child to bed 10 or 15 minutes earlier each night. In the morning, wake your child up 10 or 15 minutes earlier. This helps his or her body adjust to the school schedule.

  • Once at school, do not force your child to participate.

    Let your child get used to the new place. Some children would rather watch than take part in activities at first. Your child is likely to resist if you push too hard.

  • Make your good-byes short and visible.

    If you take your child to the classroom, don’t sneak away while your child is doing an activity. Always say good-bye. When you say good-bye, act casual and upbeat. If your child protests, stay calm and let him or her know there is no other choice. Let your child know that you will see them at the end of the day. You may want to put a note in your child’s lunchbox or a sticker on your child’s notebook that lets them know that you are thinking of them during the day.

  • After school, ask about your child's day.

    Ask questions such as "What happened at school. Did you make new friends? Did you have fun? What did you do?" Show special attention and affection. Let your child know that you are proud of him or her.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-06-10
Last reviewed: 2019-06-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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