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First-Day Rehearsal for School

Brought to you with our partner, American School Counselor Association

Help your child overcome any fears of the unknown by rehearsing for the big opening day of school. First, practice all of his activities for the first day of school. Then, before school starts, test run his new routine by actually pretending to get ready for school.

1. Wake up, sleepy heads!
Rev up your summer pace to help ease your child into an earlier routine. Your dress rehearsal can start with a new bedtime and wake-up time, and a new getting-dressed-and-eating-breakfast routine.

2. Zippers and laces and happy faces
Getting dressed is a great time to take a good look at clothes, coats, and shoes, especially before you buy anything new. Can your child put on and remove everything by herself, or is there a troublesome zipper? You might want to buy shoes with Velcro while you're teaching your child to tie laces. And those adorable overalls? They'll do nothing for your child's self-esteem and sense of accomplishment if she can't get out of them to use the bathroom.

3. Take to the road
Dressed and ready, take a trip to the new school. As you walk or drive, point out landmarks, familiar houses, and where your child can stop to rest or to get help if he needs to. Talk about where the crossing guards stand, and places to be extra careful (at the end of a sidewalk, for example). Ask questions like, "Where would I turn next if I were going to your school?" This will reassure you that your child knows the way. It will also give him practice in giving directions. Find the spot where you'll drop him off and pick him up each day. If a bus is involved, check out the National PTA's School Bus Safety Rules.

4. Test the lunch loot
Pack a lunch and have a picnic for two in the playground, or even at your kitchen table. Practice opening things together! You'll want to use the same critical eye for her lunch that you used for clothes and shoes. Be picky about the drinks and snacks. Some juice boxes have straws that challenge the most nimble-fingered adults, and some fruit cups are tougher to peel open than the fruit itself! Rest assured that teachers and lunch aides will be there to help your child. Remind her to ask for help if she needs it.

5. Check in with yourself
How are you feeling? Enthusiastic or apprehensive? Children pick up a great deal from what we say and do. If you're excited and positive about the first day, your enthusiasm will most likely become part of your child's experience. By the same token, your worries and anxieties will be transferred, too. If you feel concerned about the separation from your child, take care that she doesn't sense it or overhear any adult conversations. It's sometimes difficult to know, at the schoolhouse door, which one of you is having trouble letting go of the others' hand!

6. The first day dawns
On the eve of the big new day, provide your child with plenty of sleep. In the morning, after a good breakfast and with a healthy snack in hand, remind your child about what he has to look forward to at school and after the day is over.

Give him a family picture of you to keep in his pencil box, write little notes in his snack bags, and reassure him about what time you will be back for him.

Brought to you by the American School Counselor Association.

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