Story Time: We are all running around, making final preparations for our children to go to school. Doctor visits, school supplies, meeting teachers – Summer is over and we have to get back to work, just like our kids. In all the lists of things to buy, transport, and get done, some of the most important preparations get missed. Schools structure their ‘Meet the Teacher’ nights and Open Houses to help us prepare our children for the first day, but Story Time is a simple, fun way to help children adjust to their first day of school.
Tell them the story of their first day.
Many times children get really anxious about their first days at school. What will it be like? Will I like my teacher? Where is the bathroom? What do I do if I am scared/lonely/hungry? These thoughts aren’t talked about directly, they permeate their entire being and spill out with regression in potty training, bad attitudes, sleepless nights. The best, and most fun, way I deal with this with my kids is to have Structured Doll Play [taught by Dr Garry Landreth of UNT]. This is a special way of telling stories that works with elementary age kids.
- Have them pick out figures [action figures, stuffed animals, anything] to represent the major people in the story of their first day at school. This includes you, the person who gets them out of bed and to school, their teacher, and the people who may pick them up in the afternoon.
- Find a time when they are paying attention to you and you can have 2 minutes with them daily. Right before bed or after their bath are great times, but each family is unique, so find the right time for you.
- Tell the story.
“You are snoring in bed and I get you up with a hug at 6:45 am on your first day of school. Brush your teeth [brushing sounds], get dressed, come down for breakfast. We eat [eggs, waffles, cereal—choose or have them choose the breakfast]. Then we get our backpack, our lunch, and we go out the door and get in the car. Vroom Vroom [the more sound effects and fun things you can put in, the more engaging it will become!] I stop the car [errrt!] and help you out and walk you to the door of your class. Quick good bye [kisses, high fives, etc ask them what to do] and then you go in the classroom” At this point, it depends on what you know about their classroom. If you have pictures of their teachers, their room, their desk, show them or remind them of them. Talk about the schedule if you have it. Tell them about their lunch and the possible nap time. In other words, tell them in a few words what their day is like. Then, “At 3:40, I’ll drive up, put the sign in my front window, and your teacher will let you come out to the car and we will come home and draw together.” End on a good note.
- Tell it again each day for several days.
- Let them t-ell you the story after they get to know it.
Children who ‘know’ the story of their first day, are children who might help others to feel more secure and who will feel secure themselves. If you do go to an Open House or a Meet The Teacher, help them notice new things to put in the story–answer their questions ‘on location’. Looking forward to special time with their family is an important part of their day, because it surrounds them with the idea that no matter what happens, they know what to count on.
Do you have concerns about your child’s level of anxiety? Feel like you need more common sense help to support your family and grow strong children? Call Acorn Counseling Education Services today at 940-222-8703 to talk to one of our clinicians or email me, Christy Graham, at Christy@acorncounseling.services . If we can’t help you, we can help you find someone who can!