“Did anybody besides me have trouble sleeping last night?”
That is the first question I ask students on the first day of school. If a teacher can admit to being nervous-and-excited, it makes room for students to admit their own range of emotions.
Change — even good change — is inherently stressful. Getting to know new people, new routines, and new skills is a lot for kids to process. Our youngest learners — who don’t have as much experience with “first days” — can always benefit from some extra talk-time with parents and teachers about what school is like and what they can expect.
Fred Rogers was a master at talking through kids’ wonderings and worries. As he said, “When children know ahead of time what’s going to happen — and not happen — they can prepare themselves for what’s coming. They can think about it and get used to their feelings about it.”
In the back-to-school rush, remember to talk to your child about what school will look like in simple, practical terms. What are the names of their teachers? What will the morning routine at home look like? What will they need to put in their backpack each day? How will they get to school? What will they eat for lunch? How will they get home?
One of the best ways to start a conversation about school (and feelings about school) is through read-aloud. Here are 10 books that might help. If you can’t get to your library or bookstore, try looking them up on YouTube, where you can find thousands of picture books to read aloud.
1. The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn
It’s the first day of forest school, and Chester Racoon does not want to go. To help him work through his fears, his mom finds a clever way to reassure him of her constant love. This was my go-to night-before-school read for both of my kids in preschool.