Back-to-School: Best Getting Ready for School Books
Even though I’m filled with giddy joy about the first day of school, I have a keen understanding of how hard it can be, for kids and parents. The summer before I started eighth grade, I cried every time I saw this one specific Citrus Hill Select orange juice commercial. I’d like to say this happened because I was 13 and being poisoned by hormones but it may have been because summer was over or because I just didn’t want to sit in math class another year. I don’t really know why, but I spent the whole month of August crying about that commercial.
I think back-to-school time is just harder for some people — my daughter cried for the first three months of school for the first four years she went to school without me. Madison believed that after I dropped her off at preschool (and kindergarten and first grade), I was planning to run away to Mexico. At least that’s what it seemed like when she firmly attached herself to my leg at drop off each day. To help her get through it, we read a few books which helped her understand it’s normal to be wary of new situations but, uh, you have to do it anyway. (Which, to be fair, I’m only starting to learn at 32.)
Here are three of my favorite back-to-school books, if your kids are having a tough time adjusting to the new school year. Or if you are. I’m not judging.
Helpful Back-to-School Reads for Nervous Kids
1. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
This a cute story about a raccoon named Chester who’s nervous about school. To help him face his fears, Chester’s mother kisses his hand before he leaves for school, and he carries the warmth of that kiss all day. It would be nice if I could tell you Madison and I read this book and I kissed her hand and she marched into school without tears. It’s true, I kissed her hand but then she attached herself to my leg, a lot like a rabid raccoon, ironically, although with less biting and frothing and more tears and drippy nose. Still, sometimes when she’s struggling, she’ll ask me to put lipstick on and kiss an index card and tuck it in her lunchbox, so I think the book was pretty helpful. And it’s also really sweet, so add it to your list.
2. Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
My family loves all of Kevin Henkes’ books, but “Wemberly Worried” holds a special place in our hearts. Wemberly worries about a lot of things, but especially about her first day of school. (Spoiler! It’s not as bad as Wemberly worried it would be. Which is probably true for your kids, too.) Sometimes when Maddie is feeling tense about something, she’ll say, “I’m feeling sort of Wemberly.” It’s become a nice family shorthand for her feelings and has given her a way to express herself when she’s a little overwhelmed by worry.
3. My First Day of School: Change is Strange by Ricki Booker
Max is completely different from Madison: On his first day of preschool he ran into the classroom and didn’t even say goodbye to me. He loves school and playing with his friends. I think he loves it so much he hasn’t given much thought to how different school will be now that he’s starting kindergarten without his best preschool buddies. He and I have been reading “My First Day of School” and he’s really enjoying it. It’s all about the fun new things that happen in preschool and kindergarten. He’s been asking me lots of questions while we read, and I think the book is helping him define the uncertainty he’s feeling right now.
More Ways to Help Your Kids Get Ready for School
Books are a good first step in preparing your child — and yourself — for the first day of school, but reading a story may not be enough for either of you. My method of handling my daughter’s separation anxiety was to feel incredibly guilty for passing on my tendency to worry about everything and to call my mother everyday asking her how long I cried at drop-off. Neither of these methods was very effective, though. Instead, you might try some of these ideas to make the back-to-school transition easier for everyone.
1. Start settling kids into their school routine, especially bedtime, the week before the big day. It’s also a good idea to have kids practice getting ready in the morning — getting up, eating breakfast and getting dressed. Let them test out new shoes, clothes and backpacks ahead of time, too. And keep in mind that allowing your child to pick out a new bag or special first day outfit is an easy way to bolster self esteem and independence.
2. Visit the school ahead of time. Ideally, your school has a meet-the-teacher day, where you and your child can see his classroom, introduce yourselves to the teacher and teacher’s aid, and tour the school building. Show your child where the bathrooms are, where you’ll pick him up at the end of the day and where he will eat lunch.
3. Prepare yourself, too. Don’t forget about your emotions as a parent taking your child to school; after all, the first day of school is really just an exercise in watching time pass and seeing your child growing up and away from you. Maybe while you’re out buying backpacks, you’ll want to pick up a pack of tissues and some cute sunglasses for yourself. If you must cry, at least cry subtly, and with style. Or maybe you’re not the crying type but the type who wants to dance a jig because the kids are finally out of the house! In that case, invite your friends over to celebrate the end of the daily question: “What are we doing today?” Because now we’ll all know what we’re doing today: “You’re going to school, and I’ll be doing…something else!”
I predict I won’t be crying on the first day of school — instead, I will be toasting to my freedom and to new adventures for my kids. Cheers!
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