Q:My five-year old is going to start school in the Fall. He’s all excited about the whole idea of Kindergarten, but I’m nervous. How can his mother and I help prepare him for this big change in his life? What can my wife and I do to prepare ourselves?

A:The first day of school is always a big day for kids-and sometimes a bigger day for mom and dad. Even though most kids these days have spent at least some time away from home in preschool or daycare, they’ve been hearing about this mysterious place called "school" from about the time they could walk. For you, the closest equivalent to the first day of kindergarten might be starting a new job in England. The language is the same, but you’re not really sure of the rules and the customs.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do before school gets started to smooth out the transition for all of you:

  • Find out from the school what supplies you’ll be needing. Then, take your son with you to the store and let him pick out his own pencil box, backpack, and other items. This will give him something that familiar and all his own to comfort him in his strange, new environment.
  • Meet the teacher. If at all possible, arrange a visit for you, your wife, and your son to visit the classroom and meet his new teacher. This will give everyone a chance to meet and it’ll give your child a lower-stress way to explore the classroom without the distraction of 15 or 20 other kids running around. Some schools will actually send the teacher to visit the child at home. Even if this happens, a visit to the classroom can still be helpful.
  • Bedtime. If you need to adjust your child’s bedtime for the new school schedule, be sure to start making the change a few weeks in advance. The night before the first day may be a sleepless night as it is. A big bedtime change the same night will just add to the stress.
  • Bus ride. If your kindergartner is going to be riding the bus, it might be a bit easier on him if you or your wife can ride with him on the first day or two. Also, make sure your young scholar knows when to get off the bus, how to walk home from the stop, and what to do in the unlikely event that you’re stuck in traffic when he arrives home. You should make arrangements with a nearby friend or neighbor to be on standby.
  • Share the experience. Finally, encourage your child to talk about his day when he comes home. (And try something other than "how was school?") Let him know that you think school is interesting and important and he’ll think it is too.