Welcome to First Grade

1 Jul

Letterbalm SchoolDear LetterBalm: We just moved to a new state for my husband’s job. We timed it so that our six-year-old daughter could get acclimated to her new home and neighborhood, make a couple of friends over the summer and prepare for a new school. She’ll be going into first grade, and we’ve enrolled her in a good public school in our area. Our ordinarily energetic, bright and social girl, who loved preschool and kindergarten, has become anxious and worried. She’s nervous that she won’t make friends, that the teacher won’t like her and that she won’t understand the schoolwork. She asks the same questions all the time (“How will I get to school?” “Do I bring my lunch?” “Can I paint and draw?”). We’re not able to reassure her. She was excited when we took her to meet her teacher and tour the school. But now she’s withdrawn. What can we do?

–New Schoolgirl in Town

So far, you and your husband are doing everything right. Just be sure you aren’t telegraphing your anxiety to your daughter; kids pick up cues from their parents. Ms. L.B. cautions that you don’t dismiss or make light of her fears. Remind your daughter about how well she’s already done in school and how this is the next step. Yes, it’s a big scary step in a new school, but you know she can do it. Check online for age-appropriate first-day-of-school books, read them to her during the day (not at bedtime), and ask her questions about how she might solve problems during the school day. Walk around her new school, pointing out the playground, the entrance and other features. If it’s open, walk the halls with your daughter, noting artwork and fun things. Give her lots of details and explanations. Stay alert to her first few weeks at school, allowing her time and space to adjust. Ask her lots of engaging questions. But before you do all this, acknowledge that moving to a new place is a big challenge for her and the whole family:

Isabella, you’ve had lots of big changes this summer, haven’t you? Moving to a brand-new house in a brand-new neighborhood is pretty scary, isn’t it? Your daddy and I are getting used to it, too. And, look how you’ve begun to do some new things around the house – helping me set the table and sort groceries. You’re really growing big and strong. I know you miss Teddy and Emma, your friends from kindergarten. But you’ve already met a couple of new friends – Christa and Allyson are nice, aren’t they? Your daddy and I do understand if you’re a little shy because all this is new. But you’ve already done so well in preschool and kindergarten, and first grade is the next step. Sometimes new things and meeting new people can be scary. We understand, and you can always come to us if you want to ask questions or just talk.

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