Aug 17, 2015

Dr. Gellner: Even if your child has been in child care, the first day of real school is an important event often marked by tense anticipation. Getting your child off to a good start the first weeks of school will build future positive attitudes. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner and preparing for the first day of school is our talk on today's Scope.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kids Zone, with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: So if your child is about to start school for the very first time, you may find the following tips really helpful with this transition.

Visit the school a few times before the start of classes. A big new school is less scary on a quiet weekend day. Walk or drive the route your child will take. Look and play on the playground. Walk around the school and even try to peek into the windows. It helps your child get used to a new environment. Try to find out the name of your child's teacher and if possible, let your child see the classroom, bathroom and lunch area and meet the teacher before the first day of school. Many schools have specific times when you can visit, such as Back to School Nights. Talk about school activities and rules with your child so he or she knows what is expected while at school.

Back to school shopping is in full swing right now so take your kids and 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. Let your child help you put the school supplies in the backpack with you.

It's okay to allow your child to be scared about starting school. Don't try to ignore those feelings of fear and point out to them that children are often scared when they first go off to school because they'll miss their parents and they don't know what to expect. Try to arrange to have your child meet a classmate before school starts, that way your child will see a friendly face on the first day of school.

Once at school, don't force your child to participate. Let your child get used to a new place by observing rather than taking part. Your child is likely to resist if you push too hard. Some kids are naturally shy and that's okay. Make your goodbyes short and visible. If you take your child to the classroom, don't try to sneak away while your child is doing an activity. Always say goodbye and when you say goodbye, act casual and upbeat. If your child protests, stay calm and state firmly there's no other choice. Let your child know you will see him at the end of the day.

After school, ask about your child's day. Questions such as what happened in school? Did you make new friends? Did you have fun? What did you do? Show special attention and affection and let your child know that you are proud of him or her and listen for feelings of anger or fear, along with those feelings of excitement and happiness.

If your child is old enough to have homework, which most kids are, even starting in kindergarten, be sure to have a good study space for them. Make sure they have a table or desk, good lighting and the school supplies they need. If possible, keep the study area far away from tempting distractions like the TV.

Be sure to plan for the following day. Help your child get into the habit of organizing their things. Make sure they set out their clothes, their backpack. Any permission slips or homework from the night before need to be taken care of that night. Both you and your child will feel less frazzled in the morning.

Be sure to note important dates for your child and their school year. Buy a giant wall calendar and if your child is too young to read or write, draw pictures symbolizing important school activities. Help an older child dot down the dates of tests, reports, field trips and special events. Be available to encourage your child and show them that you care about how they do in school.

If your child has problems with a certain subject, talk to your teacher about things that you can do at home, as well as tutoring or other special attention they can get at school. Help them with their homework, but don't do their homework for them. This is not a way to protect them. It keeps the child from learning the subject and it keeps them from learning self-confidence.

If you can, become involved in your child's school. Join the Parent Teacher Organization or volunteer your time. By doing this, you share more of your child's world and you'll be in a better position to understand and make suggestions for improvement. Making school a fun and positive experience for your child will help instill a lifetime of learning success for them.

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