Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why is the first day of school so hard?

Most children going to a school for the first time experience some degree of what experts call separation anxiety. Suddenly, the idea of being cut off from one's mother (or father, or both) and left among strange people in alien surroundings, if only for a few hours, can fill a child with emotions that are close to panic.

Children sometimes respond by reverting to infantile behaviour. A five-year-old may act like a toddler, crying for Mom or Dad to stay. Fortunately, most children are rather quick to adapt and such desperate behaviour does not usually last long.

Some psychologists suggest that parents take a child to visit the teacher and classroom in advance as a way of reducing a child's anxieties. As a rule, the calmer the parents are, the calmer their children will be. However, remoteness will not reassure a child. Rather, the parent should matter-of-factly try to convey the idea that child, teacher, and parent will be able to work out any problems together.

When the time comes for a parent to leave a child at school, a clear good-bye is important. If the parent tries to sneak out, the child may feel his or her trust has been betrayed and become even more upset at the parent's sudden disappearance.

If a child seems apprehensive about school, it may be helpful to bring a favourite toy from home. One teacher had her kindergarteners create a family photo album during their first week of school. For many of them, it was comforting to turn to their albums when they felt anxious about being away from home. Treasured reminders can often comfort children whose longing for home may interfere with their enjoyment of the new experience of school.

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