It seems like only yesterday that your rambunctious five-year-old was a sweet little infant sleeping in your arms. Like it or not, they’re headed for elementary school soon and you both may be feeling a little unprepared. Before you start to panic, take a deep breath and read on for advice on how to prepare your family for this big step.

Establish routines before school starts.

One of the toughest parts of going back to school is getting back to a typical routine (aka no more late bedtimes, junk food eating and sleeping in). Start practicing the steps you’ll be taking each morning before school, including making a quick breakfast, getting dressed on time and walking to the bus stop or driving to the new school. Get your routine down now and mornings will be a breeze once school actually starts in a few weeks.

Visit the new school.

The idea of transitioning from a small, close knit preschool to an elementary school building is enough to intimidate even the bravest child (and parent). Ease your child’s fears by scheduling a visit to their new school to check out their classroom, gym, cafeteria and bathrooms. If possible, meet with their teacher so that they know who to expect on their first day. Getting familiar with the space will help make the first few weeks of school more comfortable for them and may even get them excited to start the school year.

Address their fears and concerns.

For a lot of kids, going from pre-K to kindergarten means moving from a half day at school to an all-day program. The idea of spending that much time away from their home, parents, and toys and activities can be scary. Addressing your child’s concerns before jumping into the new schedule will help prepare them for the big leap. Talk to them about the changes the new year will bring and how their day-to-day activities may differ from preschool, reassure them that they’re in good hands with their teachers and remind them of how much fun they’re going to have in their new, “big kid” classroom.

Utilize resources on their level.

The great thing about all of the media available to us in 2019 is that there’s a resource for every life situation. Seeing a similar experience played out through the eyes of a familiar character can help calm your child’s nerves and get them excited for the big day. Pete the Cat, Curious George, Elmo and more are featured in books, TV episodes and apps with the first day of school themes — many of which address having the kindergarten jitters.

Make it a quick goodbye.

As hard as it may be to leave your child’s side on the big day, it’s important to make a quick and firm exit. Prolonging the goodbyes may increase both of your anxiety. Plan out a ritual with them, like a special hug, phrase or handshake to help make drop-off a special time, rather than a scary one.

Schedule something for yourself on their first day.

If you expect to be just as emotional as your little one (if not more so!) on their first day, plan a distraction for yourself. Schedule a lunch out with friends, make a nail appointment or simply treat yourself to a favorite coffee on your way to work. Remember that your child is happy and safe at school and try your best to relax (as hard as that may be!).

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