The first day of school can be scary for both the child and their parents, especially if you have a foster child. Every foster parent wants their child to have the best experience possible on their first day so they can feel fulfilled and integrated into their new community, and it’s possible if you prepare yourself and the child properly. It’s also about putting yourself in their shoes and acknowledging their fears so you can help them work through them. Let’s take a look at how you can prepare your foster child for the first day of school. 

Communicate with School Staff Early and Often 

The first thing you have to do is inform the school that you’re a foster parent and let them know of any special needs your child may have. It would also be a good time to inform them of little things like how you’d prefer to be addressed in certain situations, like Mr. and Mrs., mum and dad, or grandma/grandpa depending on the foster arrangement. 

The more you keep the teaching staff and school aware, the better they’ll be able to make your child feel comfortable. You should also let them know if you’ve been experiencing setbacks or if the child is going through personal issues. This will help the teaching staff understand any behavioural issues in the child and address them correctly. 

Prepare Your Child Mentally Early 

You also have to prepare your child to deal with their new environment way before the school year starts. One of the things you could do to prepare them would be to try new activities over the summer  This will allow them to get prepared for social situations and they’ll be less likely to freeze up or go into their shell once they get to school. 

Another thing you should do is try to get your child acquainted with the school and teachers as soon as you can. If the school has an open house scheduled, make sure that you attend it with your child and see as much of the school as you can. Look at the exact classrooms where they’ll be studying and check other areas where they’ll congregate with other children like the playground and cafeteria. 

If there are other children present, let your child interact with them if they have the chance, and even consider taking the contact information of some parents if their child hits it off especially well with yours. Let them know discreetly that this is a foster child too. They might offer their help and allow their child and your child to attend the first day of school together. 

Another thing you should do is start getting into the child’s school routine and schedule ahead of time. You should try to get them to get up and get ready as if they were going to school at least one week before the official day. Try to take them on the drive to school as well. Make sure that they go to sleep at the same time as they would during school days as well. 

Take them Shopping for School Items with You 

Another thing you should do is get your child as involved as possible when buying clothes and staples for school. Most children love school shopping, and this will help them build a sense of excitement for their first day.  

Try to have one copy of the supply list for you and one for the child and ask them to actively look for items and check them off the list. Allow them to have a certain level of choice too. Maybe treat them to a new  set of crayons that they like or a cool notebook, as these items will give them an emotional anchor when they feel bad or distressed at school. 

You should also let them pick some of their new clothes and go food shopping with them too so you can start thinking about lunch ideas and see what things they like and don’t like. 

Let Your Child Communicate their Fears to You 

You also have to make sure that you have a lot of discussions about their first day so you can find out some of the fears and apprehensions your child may have. Let them know that it’s normal for them to have these feelings too. If you have other children who go to the same school, try to get them involved as well as they could help alleviate some of the child’s fears. And, if you feel like their fear and anxiety are out of the ordinary, see if you could get help from your fostering agency or the school. 

Try to Find Books About Going Back to School

In case you didn’t know, there are tons of books out there to help your child deal with back-to-school anxiety. Books like Save me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan, and New Adventures: My New School by Tom Easton are two examples you can explore. You should also check the Kids can Cope series of books even though they don’t all cover school days specifically.  

These books will allow your child to internalise a variety of important life and social skills through storytelling. These are great for read-aloud too, and you can stop at different points so that your children can give them their impressions or ask questions about how they would react in certain situations. 

Include a Note in their Lunch and Consider Giving Them a Comfort Object 

Adding a nice note to your child’s school lunch will remind them that they have someone at home that loves them, and they can go back to in times of need. Something like a joke from a movie the child likes or a drawing of their favourite character with words of encouragement could be all that it takes to cheer them up if they’re having a tough day. You could also check if you could find a comfort object that will comfort them in times of need. A toy, a picture, or a personalised piece of jewellery like a bracelet or a locket pendant can all work here. 

Taking the stress out of the first day of school is possible if you plan early and get everyone in the house as involved as possible. You also need to let everyone at the school know of the child’s situation and get your child prepared for their new routine as soon as possible.