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First day of school blues – why it’s OK and how to help

Young boy with school books and pencils looking sad and worriedWhen I was in primary school I cried on the first day of school every day until Grade 3. It was always put down to the fact that I was shy, clingy to my mother and apprehensive due to my multicultural background.

When I reflect on that now I can pinpoint the reason I was like that. It’s because I hate new situations. I can’t stand the unexpected, the unfamiliar. I still panic if I’m thrown into a situation where I can’t plan ahead, or don’t know what’s coming next. And so, when faced with a new teacher, new students and a new classroom, I cried. I wanted to go home where it was safe, familiar and I knew my boundaries.

Now, as a teacher, I’ve dealt with students who have been so enthusiastic about their first day at school that they have practically burst through the door singing. On the flipside, I’ve dealt with precious little beings who have cried every morning for the first two weeks. But they make it through. Why? Children are resilient. Some more than others. But they also have personalities! They will not all react the same when put in the same situation. That’s what makes them who they are. And that’s OK. That’s what their teachers and parents are for, to guide them and give them all the love and support they need to overcome their First Day Blues.

Tips for helping your child with first-day blues

If you think your child might be susceptible to the first day blues, you can help avoid the situation by:

  • Pointing out the school whenever you pass it. Chat to them about it whenever you can and ask them how they are feeling about going to school.
  • If your child’s in holiday routine before school starts, it’s wise to change their schedule now to ensure they get a good night’s rest before the big day.
  • Let your child know they have a support if they are uncomfortable about starting school. Make sure you tell them (many times) that their teacher will be there to help them if they are feeling sad or scared and that they can approach them in the classroom.

If things don’t go to plan and you end up with your child clinging to your leg on the first day then:

  • Try not to be disappointed that your child isn’t one of those ‘uber-excited’ kids on their first day of school. They are what they are. It’s a big change. Let them know it’s OK and don’t be too harsh or use threats if they are a little clingy or upset. Instead, tell them how proud you are of them and how much fun it’s going to be.
  • Set up a plan with the teacher and make sure your child will have a mate or older child as a ‘buddy’ in the yard. If they are supposed to be attending a full day then negotiate whether half days may be more appropriate until they settle in.
  • It’s hard leaving your child crying but more often then not, once the day starts and they find someone to sit next to as well as engage in activities in the classroom, they’re fine. And if they’re not, then they have other adults there on hand. Sometimes ‘hanging around’ or trying to convince your child to ‘let go’ can prolong the situation and make them more upset. As long as your child is not incredibly anxious and beside themselves, it’s best to make a hasty retreat.

Starting school is a great milestone. It’s a huge leap of independence and in that first year of schooling children really do blossom. Before you know it they will be walking into the classroom, unpacking their bags, putting their lunchbox where it needs to go, getting their reader organised and packing and unpacking their bags. On the first day that can seem impossible (for the parents and sometimes the teachers!) but it does happen.

Enjoy it and don’t be too worried about the First Day Blues, they’re over it before you know it!

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One comment so far -

  1. Hi – you and I speak the same language..that of educators and parents. Your advice is spot on. Hard to watch a little person in distress however, experience shows that in 99%cases all is well over time. Always best to take note, parents, if there’s been something of a great change in the families’ circumstances which may affect behaviour. For instance, when I was a principal my school was in an area with many families in the military and sometimes Mum or Dad would be off to parts unknown. Thanks for such a good post! Denyse

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