Talking to your kids about: Those first day jitters
It seems like it was just yesterday I was writing about reading with your children over the summer, and here we are, only a week away from the first day of a new school year. Change is never easy for anyone. You might be looking forward to a new job or challenge, but on that first morning, if you are like me, you are a sleep-deprived nervous wreck! The same holds true for our children on the first day of school (in fact, most teachers and principals suffer from the first day jitters – on a yearly basis).
You can do much to quell those fears with how you talk about the upcoming school year and in how you prepare for the big day. Let your child lead the direction of the discussion, they will be able to articulate exactly how they feel. Ask simple questions and then listen carefully to their replies. In your response stay positive, but also acknowledge your child’s fears as being normal and expected. Involve your child in the preparations for the big day, choosing what outfit they will wear, what you will pack for lunch if they are staying for the day, even helping your child to write a note to the teacher about their hopes and fears regarding school will be helpful (and giving it to the teacher gives them a heads up to be extra observant for the first little while).
There are many picture books to choose from to help start conversations on the subject. I am highlighting just a few, but a simple search using NoveList will bring up many more titles to consider.
Written by Joseph Slate, this whimsical rhyming alphabet book shows both the teacher and children getting ready for kindergarten. It is positive and illustrated in a way to catch the attention of our youngest readers. This book has proven to be so popular that six additional titles have been written featuring Miss Bindergarten and all of her students going about their year in kindergarten.
Written by Julie Danneberg, this book expertly captures the panic and unease felt by many on the first day of the school year. Throughout the book Sarah, the main character, is not fully depicted, and it is not until the end of the book that we find out the reluctant Sarah is the new teacher at the school. Children relate to the story throughout the reading and are relieved to find out that grown-ups can be nervous and afraid as well.
Written by Kevin Henkes, this is a story for the worrywart in your family! Wemberly is a mouse who worries about everything, great and small. Wemberly finds things to worry about at the park (are the chains on the swings too rusty, the rungs on the climber too high or the bolts on the slide too loose?) at home and in bed. All of these worries gear up to the biggest worry of all, starting nursery school. Children will relate to Wemberly, and adults will revel in her grandmother, who wears a shirt that urges everyone to go with the flow! Kevin Henkes is a wonderful storyteller ,you might also want to check out a few of his other titles like Lilly’s purple plastic purse and Jessica.
Written by Jonathan London, this book (one of a series based on the loveable Froggy) concentrates on his concerns regarding school. The book starts out with a nightmare Froggy is having. In his nightmare, Froggy ends up at school in only his underwear. This is actually a common fear that children have, worrying that they will arrive at school inappropriately attired. But all goes well with Froggy on his first day of school and children will enjoy this story and the vivid illustrations that accompany it.
Written by Mike Thaler, and the first of many titles in this series, it takes a comic look at the worst fears children have about their teacher. A young boy imagines that his teacher is actually a dragon who “toasts” her students with her fiery breath, or chomps them in half during a discussion of fractions. If your child enjoys this title, you should explore the others in this series, including one about the principal and another about the school librarian. This book was originally published in 1989, but recently was reprinted with new cover art.
Written by Lauren Child, this is one of the Charlie and Lola books written before the television show. In true Lola style, she has many reasons for not going to school, including not needing to know how to write (the telephone is handier for getting in touch with people), not having the time to go (she is far too busy) and so on. These are very real reasons to many children, and the story will resonate with them. As well, the mixed media artwork will appeal the child in all of us. If your child enjoys this book, consider some of the other titles by Lauren Child, including her Clarice Bean and Storybook Wolves series.