How we emotionally prepare for the first day of school

Can you believe in a few days the new school year begins?! After a bit of a rough start last year, this year we’ve really concentrated on how to emotionally prepare for the first day of school (and beyond).

There are no guarantees that it’s going to work but I do think that all these little things will definitely create positive and happy thoughts about starting the new school year and the changes that it brings.

If you were already a Mascara & Mimosas follower last year, you’ll remember that we had a really rough first few months (yes, months). Aria started grade R at a brand new school and because we’ve never had any issues with drop offs, not a single tear ever, we completely underestimated what a massive change last year was.

Honestly, it was a very emotionally trying time for all of us, especially Aria. Still, we got through it and so I want to share with you what helped us then, and what we’re doing this year to emotionally prepare our girls for school.

9 Tips to emotionally prepare for the first day of school

How we emotionally prepare for the first day of school

1. Draw a map

This sounds so bizarre but it helped Aria so much and is a great tip if your child is going to a brand new school, but even if it’s a new class.

Everything is new and a little bit scary so drawing them a map of how they will get from the gate to their class (even if you walk them to class), where the playground is, the office, the tuckshop and anything else that excites them about school.

Draw the map with them, add lots of colour and draw arrows for them. We even drew all of Aria’s friends in the little block that represented her classroom.

Each morning in the car when you leave for the school drop off, give your child the map, this will help them ease into the idea of going to school for the day and when they walk in with their map, they will feel so much more confident because this massive new school seems so much less daunting now that they know where they’re going.

2. Give them a keepsake from home

It really doesn’t have to be anything big at all, I literally found scraps of material and made a tiny stuffed heart that Aria could keep in her pocket and hold in her hand when she was feeling anxious.

3. Heart on the hand

This always does the round when it’s back-to-school and for good reason, it’s such a goodie and can offer great comfort to your little on.

Draw a heart on your child’s hand, just below their thumb and also on yours (some people draw half a heart on their child’s hand and the other half on their hand). Before they leave for school, rub or press your hearts to “fill them full of love”.

Then explain to your child, whenever they are missing you or are feeling anxious, they can look, rub or press the heart on their hand that’s full of your love. So sweet and I know that so many children benefit from this.

4. Talk about it but also don’t talk about it… it’s a fine line

This is actually so tricky but I’ve found that taking Aria’s lead works best for us. When she brings up school, or even school friends we use the opportunity to speak positively and excitedly about going back to school.

At the beginning of the year Aria and I sat down and spoke about our goals for the year, her main one is to learn how to read. This was a great gateway to chat about school and how it’s going to help her achieve her goal for the year.

When we do chat about school, we never ask “how are you feeling about school?” or “are you feeling nervous about grade 1?”, we try to keep it light and very casual. The less pressure the better.

5. Don’t do all the back-to-school things at once

For us as parents, smashing out the school admin feels like a massive tick on the to do list, but for our kids it’s probably pretty overwhelming especially if they’re already feeling anxious.

While a lot of it can be done without your child present, we found that it helps to have Aria involved to a degree so I split the bag buying, school shoe try on, etc over a few days.

6. Add some fun where you can

Nothing massive but just something to make them smile. Some things that we’ve done is buy some iron-ons to customise Aria’s new chairbag. I’ve made sure that I have a few lunchbox notes to pop in every few days, we added some fun tags to her bag and we made sure that she got the school bag that she had her eye on.

Adding pops of positivity definitely helps to ease the back to school anxiety, even if it’s just a little bit.

7. Keep the same routine every single morning

We’ve seen this time and time again with our kids, where there’s routine, they thrive. If I think of my own experiences of feeling anxious, if I knew what was about to happen in the next few moments, it would have helped so much.

This is why your morning routine is so incredibly important, keep it the same every day. For us, the most important part of this was the person who did the actual school drop of.

Aria tended to be less emotional when Dan dropped her off and so that’s what we stuck to as much as possible. If I had to drop her off for some reason, we would give her as much warning as possible.

8. Have open lines of communication with the school

This is something we did right from the beginning of Aria battling to settle last year and it was so helpful. All of the teachers in the grade knew that Aria was having some trouble and there was always someone at the gate to help us if things got really bad (which they did, often).

Her class teacher was incredible and always kept us in the loop with how Aria was doing and we also touched base with the school psychologist who helped to guide us.

9. Read books that will help navigate separation and anxiety

You know how much we love reading, it is one of the best ways for us to help our girls when they are going through something. Some of our favourites are: King of the Classroom, Mouses Big Day, The Invisible String, Lions in a Flap, What if Pig.

A new school year is a big step for the whole family and to be honest, we can never really predict how our kids are going to react to the change, I know this from experience. What I will say though, is that you will be your child’s biggest support and biggest comfort if they do have a tough time.

I posted this on Instagram when we were going through the most with school drop offs, and it still rings true.

Know that there will come a time when the not-so-great school drop-offs become less and the wonderful drop-offs become the norm. You can and will get through it.

Let the new school year begin!

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South African Influencer Sarah Booyens

I’m Sarah, shameless coffee addict, brazen beauty fiend, mid-size style gal and the heart behind parentingbeauty and lifestyle blog, Mascara & Mimosas.


  1. Love this!!!

    Love the heart idea. We do it too.

    Also we take a drive to school the day before and check it all out.

    Also the books help a lot.

  2. Love this post! I will definitely be trying this. ? A printed school day routine is also great:-wake up, eat, brush teeth, dress, brush hair, drive, drop off, class, break, class, nap, collect, quiet time…..etc (pictures of each step if you child can’t read). It helps them to know when drop off and collection fits into the day. (I will put this behind our map) Role play (school- school) I also a great way to prepare your child for school. Let them be the teacher or the child. Involve the whole family, the pets and the toys. This will also present natural opportunities to practice what to do if something goes wrong, if you dont have anyone to play with, if someone is sad, etc. If your child has never been to school, watching videos on YouTube of morning rings, fun class games , etc will give them a fun window into what lies ahead. Lastly, as a teacher, please let your child eat and drink out of school containers and wear school shoes and clothes at home to ensure they can practice using these items. I’ve seen happy days turn very hard when a child turns to look for their mom to open their lunchbox and realizes they are not there for a while. It is a small thing that really really helps.


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