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The first day at school...
Kanchan Maslekar
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January 24, 2007

It seems like yesterday when your baby was in diapers and you could not wait for her to start walking. Very soon, she will be taking her first baby steps to school.

For many parents and their little ones, this can be a difficult time. Mughdha Magale, homemaker and mother of three-year old Mohit, says, "I felt a sense of vacuum when I left Mohit at school for the very first time." Don't worry, feeling this way is normal.

Priya Vaidya, a teacher working with pre-schoolers for the last 10 years, says, "Though this separation can be emotional, it is inevitable. At best, all a parent can do is postpone it temporarily by making the child join school a year later."

Though there is no foolproof method to ensure your child will not shed tears during her first few days at school, the following steps could make the transition easier for both of you. 

Start talking about school

Start including the word 'school' in your conversation with your child. Tell your child about school and the fun activities she can do there. Introduce your child to other school-going children.  

"Talk about the teacher, the activities, picnics and all the fun your child will have at school," says Rani Shirodkar, who has been teaching pre-schoolers for more than 15 years and runs a private nursery in Pune.

Give the right message 

Start associating the word 'school' with fun and not as something that should be feared.

Sometimes, parents admonish their child by saying they will send them off to school if they misbehave. Statements like "Stop fighting or I will take you to school" or "Don't do this or the teacher will scold you" could create a wrong impression about school in your child's mind.

Iron out any fears by asking what they think school might be like. However, don't dismiss your child's fears -- things that seem obvious or silly to an adult can seem like terrible obstacles to a two or three-year-old.

School shopping

Here's the fun part! Make shopping for school fun -- let your child choose her school bag, water bottle, snackbox, etc (within reason, of course).

Armed with this variety of colourful accessories, your child will now definitely be excited about going to school to show off her new things.

Show the child around

One day before school, take your child along to familiarise her with the school premises. Many schools organise playgroup visits, wherein the parent shows the child around and introduces her to the teachers.

Get the child into the school schedule

If your child is going to miss her afternoon nap because of her school timings, try to skip the nap at least two weeks before school begins.

Ritu Katren recalls how her three-year old son had a tough time adjusting to the school's morning timings as he was a late riser.

She suggests, "Try to get your child into a consistent school-night routine one or two weeks before school starts. It's also a good idea to make sure kids go to bed at a reasonable time."

Enact activities

Children are less likely to fret if they know what to expect from school. Games, role-playing and reading at home can help your child get into the right frame of mind and boost her confidence, adds Priya.

These activities include:

On the first day

Don't rush things on the first day. Your child will cry, so don't be upset, shocked, surprised or embarrassed, says Shirodkar.

Things to keep in mind:

Spare a thought for the teacher

The class will be full of first-timers getting together under the same roof. Chaos is inevitable, so refrain from pestering or nagging the teachers.

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