Heading to school for the first time can evoke a myriad of emotions for kids and parents alike. All of the newness during the beginning of a new school year brings with it a variety of anxiety-inducing experiences like meeting a new teacher, making new friends, eating a school lunch for the first time, and riding the bus for the first time. Luckily, there are ways to prepare your kids for taking the school bus for the first time in order to help stave off some of those first day jitters.
If your child has never stepped foot onto a school bus before, it can be daunting. Not only are they leaving the comfort of home to head to a big, new school, but they're taking a ride with someone who is (for now) a stranger. Although many people fondly remember the bus drivers from their childhood as some of the most kind and caring people they've known, meeting and riding with someone unfamiliar can be scary unless a child is well prepared.
Parents who want to make sure that their child is prepared for their first school bus ride should know that, like with any new event in a child's life, success in this endeavor is a process. It may take a while for your kid to get used to riding the school bus, but preparation and persistence can definitely help ease the transition.
1. Read About It
As with any new childhood experience, reading a book to prepare your child for what to expect can help ease any fears or concerns. Books like Tanya Takes The School Bus by Martha E.H. Rustad or Hello School Bus by Marjorie Blain Parker can help get kids ready to ride the bus by providing examples of what a child can expect on the bus, as well as covering basic safety rules to follow in a kid-friendly way.
2. Watch A Video
My kids love learning just about anything and everything via YouTube video. Taking advantage of some of the videos about riding the school bus available for free online can help put your child at ease. Watching videos together can open the window of opportunity for discussion about what your child can expect when they ride the bus for the first time, as well as what they may see or hear from peers and how to react.
3. Find A Buddy
Although your child may have never ridden the bus before, they may have a neighborhood friend or sibling who has and who can sit with them or talk to them before their first bus ride to help ease the transition.
Jessica Kitchens tells Romper that she remembers riding the bus as a child and how having a sister on board helped her. "My sister rode with me because we attended the same school, and so it wouldn’t be so scary," she says. "That was until we each found friends on the bus to sit with, but sometimes we would stay sitting with each other."
4. Meet The Bus Driver
So that your child can feel more at ease when it comes time to board the bus, check with your school district to see if there is a time before the first day of school where your child can meet their bus driver. Many districts offer meet-and-greet events or "dry runs" where the bus driver will come to your bus stop to meet children before school starts. Having a familiar face greet them the day of their first bus ride can make a world of difference for a first-time bus rider.
5. Wait With Them
To help your kid feel a bit more comfortable with riding the bus for the first time, you can wait with them at the bus stop until they get the hang of knowing where to stand, how long it takes for the bus to get there, and give yourself some peace of mind that they have started their journey to school safely.
Kathryn Morton tells Romper that after living abroad and returning to the states, her mom waited with her at the bus stop for the first time as a ninth grader. Although she was admittedly "a little embarrassed," Morton says she would consider doing the same if she were in her mom's shoes. "We had always gone to school with my teacher mom up until then, but when we moved to Texas, she wasn't at the same schools," she says. "I think she stopped waiting at the stop after a few months, but at first she waited."
6. Teach Them Bus Safety Rules
The National Safety Council provides a wealth of information for parents and students regarding how to stay safe on the bus and at the bus stop. They recommend teaching children to stay in their seat, use seatbelts if available, speak quietly to avoid distracting the bus driver, keep bus aisles clear, and keep all objects inside of bus windows.
Instructing your child in not only how to act on the bus, but before and after boarding the bus, is paramount in reducing the amount of bus stop accidents. The National Safety Council recommends that children be advised on how to safely enter and exit the bus, as well as where to stand and walk at and near the bus stop.
7. Pack A Surprise For The Ride Home
While you may be waiting for them at the bus stop upon their return, your child will have to board the bus after school on their own. If your child seems nervous about this part of their bus ride, let them know that you have packed a special surprise for them to look forward to at the end of the day. If your child's bus allows it, this can be a snack or drink that they love, or even something as simple as a thoughtful note or a fun coloring page to work on.