First Weeks of First Grade

The First Weeks of First Grade:

How to Help Your Child Adjust to First Grade


  • Make sure your child is familiar with the school s/he will attend.  Without interrupting anyone (this is a frantically busy time for every staff member) try to visit the school a few times and walk the halls so your child will remember how to get to his/her classroom.

  • Foster independence in your child.  If your child has figured a way to take care of getting out and putting away craft materials, for instance, and they system is workable (even if it isn't the way you would do it) respect your child's problem-solving decisions and don't interfere.  Let your child pick out appropriate clothes to wear and don't correct choices of color and style.  In every small task your child attempts, see if your child can make corrections independently.  Wait to see if your child asks for advice from you instead of jumping in to tell your child what "should have been done in the first place."

  • No matter how hard it is to go to bed when it's light outside, start adjusting bedtime in early or mid August so your child won't be awake at 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. on the nights before school.

  • Listen to yourself carefully.  Do you tell your child what to do...and then tell your child again...and again?  Break the habit!  Warn your child that you are going to start saying things once and that you will expect your child to listen and understand what you have said.  Then do it!  Bite your lips if you have to, but don't repeat your message.  Let your child scramble as s/he figures out that you really meant it when you said you wouldn't repeat yourself.  Let your child miss out on a little activity or treat.  Most children need only two or three of these "learning experiences" before they master the skill of thoughtful listening.  It's convenient if they listen to you the first time; it's essential that they listen that way to the first grade teacher!

  • Don't jump in to help your child during the first days of school if your child is disappointed that he's not with a certain friend of she's not in a certain room or doing a certain activity-or if your child thinks the teacher is "mean."  Most of these seemingly traumatic happenings are quickly forgotten by the children-but often not by the parents.  Remember that your child is much more likely to tell you what is wrong about the new situation than to tell you what is right.  The rule of thumb is to give your child six weeks to "settle in."

  • In the same vein, give your child an hour of play or rest (and probably a snack) before you ask about his day, and then ask in an open-ended way.  Sometimes too many questions too soon-or too intensely-will "sour" a child on his or her school day.

  • In a low-key way be your child's advocate, calmly letting the teacher know helpful things that you know about your child.  This is especially important if your child cries at first or is timid or can't finish work and you know this behavior occurred at the beginning of kindergarten also, but then disappeared.

  • Give your child and other children credit for the ability to negotiate all kinds of settlements on their own.  They recognize their own competence when we trust them to "hang in there" and work things out on their own.  And they do at least as well as we can do-usually better!