How to Help Ease Your Child’s
First Day of School Jitters

by Natasha Wing

Photo credit: Matt Henry Gunther, Taxi/Getty Images

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to go to kindergarten!

I had practiced my alphabet,


trimmed up my bangs,


and bought new clothes, pencils, paper, and a lunchbox.

Oh how I loved freshly sharpened pencils and blank white paper! To this day I still love sharpened pencils. I bought an old retro pencil sharpener at an estate sale that gets used a lot in my home office; sometimes I write my first draft notes on paper with pencil.

My grandmother had been a teacher so perhaps it was in my blood to mimic her. Before school started, I role-played and lined up my stuffed animals — Billy Bear, Easter Bunny, and Boing Boing Bunny — in front of my white board, which was adorned with magnetic letters and numbers. I taught them some basic skills.

Then finally — oh happily — the first day of school came!

In those days the neighbor kids and I walked to school. My mom has home movies of me heading off with them, waving with excitement. School meant I was a “big girl” now, but inside I was a bit nervous. I was a shy kid and didn’t like being in the spotlight. What if my new teacher called on me? What if I didn’t make a friend? What if I messed up my new clothes? These are some of those anxieties I incorporated in my back to school Night Before books.

Reading books like The Night Before Preschool, The Night Before Kindergarten or The Night Before First Grade is a great way to get your children to open up about their feelings about starting school for the first time or returning to a new grade. Read the books together and ask them questions to get the conversation started:

“Are you excited about school? Why?”

“Are you nervous about school? Why?”

“Do you think school will be fun? Or scary?”

“How do you feel about going to a new place?”

“How do you feel about meeting new kids?”

“What makes you happy about starting school?”

If they’ve already met their teacher, ask them, “Do you like your new teacher?”

You might also want to role-play and have your child pretend he or she is the teacher welcoming the new student (you) to their classroom.

Moms, dads, and grandparents: You, too, might need to talk about your feelings to a good friend. It’s a big day to send your child off to school, so make sure you’re dealing with the separation as well.

And when your child gets home from their first day, celebrate it!