First Day of School Jitters

First Day of School Jitters

2 August 2022 • Words by Samantha Redgrave-Hogg 6 mins

How do you feel about your child starting or going back to school? Do you have a fear of change? I remember when my youngest started school and it was a real mixture of sadness and (to be honest) elation. Space to work my way back to me– this was freeing. It was time for me to start a new chapter. I was also heartsick that my journey of having two young children at home was coming to an end. Things can be two things at the same time- and it was. 

How does your child feel about their first day of school? My eldest took everything in her stride. My youngest experienced anxiety and a fear of change. This was difficult and I feel for you if you are going through the same. Reassuring and uplifting him proved to be a good strategy. I kept it upbeat but showed empathy with my words.  

What are some helpful things I can say to my child who is feeling anxious about their first day of school?

If you find your child is feeling nervous about their first day of school, I have put together my top five helpful practical tips which might ease any fears or stress. 

How to help a child with the first day of school jitters:

Make a practice journey

Try a practice journey to school and travel there the same way you will on their first day. This can be a lovely mindfulness practice as you can talk about all the little things you see on your way there. Fear of change can feel overwhelming for little ones so familiarizing themselves with their surroundings can feel supportive. Giving them encouragement like this is crucial but we must allow our children to confront difficult situations themselves. According to Rachel Busman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute “We want to provide the scaffolding they need to stand on their own.”

Be positive

Talk about all the things they are looking forward to doing at school. Perhaps they enjoy socializing with other children, playing in the sandpit, or doing arts and crafts. Let them know they will be having a lovely time doing some things they enjoy on their first day of school. When you drop them off make sure you have a big smile on your face so they know this is a safe place. Putting on a brave face will help your child settle more easily.

Grounding meditation techniques

If your child is getting worried about their first day of school try bringing them back to the present moment with some deep breaths and calming techniques. They can breathe away their nerves. Our Blurp Goes Back to School bedtime story is a deeply relaxing mindfulness tale all about how Blurp the Batty Bubblefish makes going back to school a heap of fun. If music is more your thing Fluttercup’s Unicorn School Sonata is perfect for melting away any school jitters. Moshi has so many wonderful relaxing meditations for children to use at home. We even have a Moshi for Educators program (free for educators!) – so check out our enchanting content that enriches children’s emotional wellbeing.

Create a good bedtime routine

Start easing out of any late nights or irregular bedtimes at least two weeks before the start of school. You can do this by bringing their bedtime forward by a few minutes every day so that by the time they start school they will be asleep at a good time. Shifting your child’s bedtime routine will help them cope better with this big change.  

Prepare your child

Practical skills such as putting their coat and shoes on independently can boost their confidence. It’s also great to get them used to their setting. Some examples could be showing them a picture of their teacher, looking at the website, and arranging a playdate with a child who will be attending the same school. Having a friendly face to say hello to on your child’s first day can help with separation anxiety. You can ease any separation worries with our Linton Moshling in The Art of Being Apart Moshi Moment. This teaches children to feel excited instead of nervous when they are apart from their caregivers. There is a fine line between preparing your child and talking about things too much. Sometimes this can be a way of easing our parental anxieties so just be cautious of this.

How to help caregivers with the first day of school jitters:

You as a parent or caregiver may feel nervous about your child starting school. Whether it’s the first-time school drop-off, the loneliness you may experience if you are a stay-at-home caregiver or the worry you might feel about how your child experiences this big change – well the whole thing can feel really quite daunting! I have put together some helpful advice for easing the first day of school butterflies. Parents, this is how you can beat the first day of school blues.

Talk about how you feel

It’s ok to shed a tear after saying goodbye to your little one as it’s such an emotional day. Scheduling a catch-up with a friend to talk through your feelings can feel helpful. You could even arrange to go for an after-school-drop-off coffee with some of the other parents who have children in the same class. This can be a lovely way to connect to the new moms and dads in the same boat. 

Prepare Yourself

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time in the morning on that first day. Rushing around will only increase stress. Getting into a good morning routine before school sets the tone for the weeks to come. Remember to take that first-day photo and take the journey to school nice and slow. If you feel overwhelmed at drop-off you can always practice some deep belly breaths to calm the nervous system.

Get involved in the school

Why not participate in parent organization meetings or run a school event? This can be a nice way to connect with other parents and help your school at the same time. School involvement can also be a great way to build rapport with the school staff. Feeling connected to your local community can be incredibly rewarding and great for self-confidence.

Identify your needs

It could be this is the last time you will send a child on their first day of school or perhaps you are the parent of an only child. Is this a big milestone for the family? It might be time to address any underlying needs you may have now your everyday life looks different. This could be an excellent chance to think about any changes you might like to make. Perhaps you have been thinking about getting back to work, progressing in your career, or taking up a new hobby. The world is your oyster!

However, it can be tricky for us parents to think about what needs we have outside the family home. What are yours? Is there anything stopping you from fulfilling these? Sometimes the fear of change might prevent us from embarking on something new.

Let’s talk about fear of change:

This comes up in my therapy practice. Fear of change is sometimes linked to a fear of failure. Hands up who wants to try something new but puts intentional obstacles in the way? Me! The unknown results mixed in with worry of what others will think can create a protective response. This can sometimes be entirely unconscious and result in procrastination. A study by Adam McCaffrey and Timothy A. Pychyl (2012) talks about the relationship between fear of failure and procrastination. In other words, to make sure we don’t leave our comfort zone, we put things off.

“People who grow up in a home that is very negative, where parents think of life as burdensome, often exhibit fear of change as adults.”

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sarah Rodman.

So when your child goes to school it may feel like everything is changing but you can overcome these fears. Everything in life is impermanent. So just take each moment as it comes. My best advice would be to create an affirmation or mantra you can repeat daily. This helps create self-belief and a growth mindset.

Something like:

I am imperfect and uncertain of life’s outcome. I am willing to learn, change, and grow. I am proud of myself for living a life with purpose and taking the time to fulfill my needs. I am worthy.

You are enough. We all are. That’s what it all comes down to doesn’t it? Believing in yourself will help your child feel lovable and worthy too.

Samantha Redgrave-Hogg