First day at school - how to help your child feel more confident

Teaching your child the skills they need to cope will boost their confidence and soothe those first-day school fears, whatever their age

Get psyched for school success!

Whatever your child’s age, that first day at school is a huge milestone and it’s easy for them to become anxious about new routines and social situations. Teaching them the skills they’ll need to cope will boost their confidence and soothe those first-day fears – so follow these tips to make sure they survive and thrive in their new school.

First day at primary school?

Your child may be excited about going to ‘big school’ but it’s a big step up from spending his days at home with you or whiling away the hours playing with his friends at nursery…

Friendship skills

Sharing can be the key to making friends, so get your child used to co-operating with other kids. He also needs to  know that he’ll be fine when he’s away from you…

  • Focus on the upside Remind him how it makes him feel good when other children let him play with their toys or join in with their games – and that if he does the same thing at school his new classmates will see how kind he is and will want to be friends with him.
  • Find a familiar face Ask the school for a class list and arrange some playdates with your child’s new classmates before school starts. He’ll feel much less insecure about being away from you if he sees some familiar faces on his first day.

School rules

Now he’s going to school your child will have to get used to a whole new set of routines…

  • Good behaviour Explain that there are some simple rules he needs to follow in class, such as staying in his seat and listening during his lessons without talking. He’ll need to know to raise his hand if he needs to ask his teacher a question, so have practice sessions at home before school starts.


Your child may never have been in such a busy environment without you there to take care of him…

  • Meet the teacher Staff are usually at school a few days before the semester starts, so arrange a time to pop in and Introduce your child to his new teacher. She’ll be used to dealing with first-day stress and she’ll know exactly what to say and do to put your child at ease.
  • Tour the school If there’s a proper open day arranged, try to get there if you can – it’s a good opportunity to walk around and work out easy routes for your child to get to his classroom, the cafeteria or the playground, and find the bathrooms from his classroom.

First day at secondary school?

This brings your child face to face with fresh challenges and new faces.

Meeting and greeting

Teaching your child how to make the first move will help her conquer any nerves she has about her new classmates…

  • Find out about the other kids As with junior school, go to the orientation session and set a good example by being sociable yourself. Introduce yourself and your child to the other parents and their kids and ask their names, what they like, whether they’re nervous about their new school.
  • Practise breaking the ice Use role-play to practise greetings and gestures that kickstart a conversation – rehearse comments on the weather, complimenting a potential friend’s great outfit or hairstyle, or asking what junior school someone went to. On the morning of her first day, reassure her that the other kids will probably be feeling just as anxious as she is and that a smile and a nod to a classmate will go along way towards forming new friendships.

Older kids

It’s likely your child will feel pretty anxious about being among the youngest kids in school when she used to be one of the oldest…

  • Help her hide her nerves If she’s obviously overanxious, she might appear more vulnerable to older kids who might bully her. Practise standing tall and straight with her head held high, looking other kids in the eye.
  • Acknowledge her fears Bear in mind that bullying is a big problem in schools, so don’t simply dismiss your child’s fears – acknowledge them and tell her you’re there for her if she feels intimidated by anything an older child says or does.

First day at college?

Social and academic pressure can combine with hormones to make college seem scarily competitive to your teen…

Body image

Your child is right at the age where how he appears to his classmates is all-important…

  • Reassure him It can be hard to see other kids grow and develop if your body seems to be stuck at a younger age. Your child is probably convinced he’ll never catch up, but remind him that he’s still growing and gaining on the other students all the time.
  • Help him see beyond looks Focus too on the fact that it’s not just physical attributes that make a person attractive: it’s also personality, attitude and sense of humour.
  • Talk up his talents Point to other areas where your child might be ahead of other kids his age: perhaps he has a gift for art or music, or is good at sports.

Peer pressure

Your teen's need to be accepted by the other kids in school means she might have sleepless nights worrying that she might stand out or look different…

  • Celebrate her differences Tell her it’s OK to want the other kids to like her, but remind her that she’s an individual and that she shouldn’t simply follow the crowd just to be popular. True friends won’t put pressure on her to dress a certain way or freeze her out for looking different – and any kids who do are looking for power and control, not friendship.
  • Cancel out the cliques Looking beyond the cliques who expect her to look and dress a certain way means your child can be herself, so before she starts at her new school find out all you can about clubs and after-school activities which will introduce her to new students who have similar interests.

Schoolwork panic

Your child will be well aware that high school comes complete with longer, tougher assignments…

  • Get her organised Tackle this first-day fear well ahead of time by working out ways to help manage her work: for instance, a regular study timetable she sticks to and a planner to keep track of when homework is due.
  • Set her up to succeed from day one by arranging a quiet study space for her in her bedroom. Include a well-lit desk, a dictionary and thesaurus and, if possible, a computer complete with an encyclopedia program such as Encarta and study-aid software.


Related links

  • Reading for 6-9 Year Olds Helping your child improve their reading skills is easier than you may realize. Teacher Christine Waite has these simple tips for parents…
  • Best Homework Websites The top online learning resources to help your child with homework…
  • Helping Your Child with Numbers and Sums Teacher and Supernanny expert Sandy Fazio shares some easy and effective ways you can help your young child with numbers and simple sums.
  • Supporting a Studying Child Feeling helpless as your child faces their final year at school? Here are some basic ways to support your child during this challenging time.
  • Tips for Teaching Letters and Words When it comes to teaching your child letters and reading, making learning fun and interesting is an invaluable way to boost his confidence and self-esteem.


Find out more

  • Starting School By Allen Ahlberg. Deals with most activities your child will encounter, taking them through the first day, week, month and term.
  • Going Up! The No-Worries Guide to Secondary School By Jenny Alexander. Tackles common worries in a positive and reassuring manner, offering easy solutions to any issues or problems your child may have. 


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