The first day of school is full of change—summer is over and waking up early is the new norm, for starters. But with a few encouraging phrases for kids, your little ones will feel much better about this transition.

In short, kids need your support more than ever before. It’s important that the positive phrases you say to your children become their inner voice. The first day of school can be daunting for any number of reasons but using these tips can help prepare kids by making them feel more confident and reassured.

Related: 17 kids’ books perfect for calming first day of school jitters

How to prepare kids for their first day of school

Kids need to understand four simple things on the first day of school:

  • That you are proud of them, and your love is unconditional
  • Success is in their control
  • School is a way to learn new things and make new friends
  • At the end of the day, they get to be with their family

Positive phrases for kids

1. “You’re capable of anything you set your mind to.”

It sounds cliché, but every child needs to hear this not only on the first day of school but throughout the school year. Saying these words are the first step to teaching your kids about perseverance and work ethic. It’s an important affirmation that puts them into the mindset of working towards success.

2. “You don’t have to be the best at everything; you just need to try your best.”

Children are not perfect. Chances are your child will struggle at some point with a task, a concept or a subject while at school. In those moments it will be helpful for them to know that they don’t have to be the best at everything, but they must try their hardest. Saying these words will also keep your child from feeling self-conscious when others do well. There is no need for comparison, just do your best.

3. “It’s about the journey, not just the destination.”

Some children—especially those in their teenage years, with college in the foreseeable future—will overwhelm themselves. They stress about the future and while being concerned and driven about your future is a good thing, we must teach our children to cherish the journey as well.

4. “Treat others how you want to be treated.”

For some children, especially those who are only children, it may be a jarring experience to share the attention of an adult with an entire cohort of students. Teaching your kids to treat others the way they like to be treated will help them put themselves in the shoes of others and avoid lashing out over lack of attention or being mean to someone else because of peer pressure.

5. “Don’t let your peers’ actions affect how you feel about yourself.”

At some point, your child will be on the receiving end of negative comments or behavior. In these instances, it will be helpful for them to know that the actions of a bully say more about the bully than the target.

Related: How to talk about bullying with your kids—without being awkward

6. “Every mistake is a lesson.”

Children will forget to study, will forget a homework assignment, they will oversleep or feel moody. It is always important to teach kids that mistakes are lessons that inform us on how to act later on. It also helps them convert disappointment into a positive.

7. “I believe in you and I support you.”

Children need to know their parents have their back. This is essential to a child’s self-esteem and confidence to perform well in school and in their social circles.

8. “Magic happens outside of your comfort zone.”

In life, you don’t grow by sticking to the same habit and routine; therefore, it’s important for children to perform at their peak by stepping outside their comfort zone. Help them rise to the occasion by being comfortable with discomfort.

9. “I’m going to drop you off, then you’ll meet your teacher, and have lunch…”

On the first day of school, children may have zero or very few expectations, so walk them through it to make them feel at ease. Tell them you’re going to drop them, what they’ll do when they get there, how they’ll have playtime, lunchtime and recess time.

10. “I can’t wait to hear about your day.”

This is especially useful if your child is having a hard time saying goodbye. Before they leave, give them something to look forward to after school by offering an activity or a snack to help them get through the day.

Related: 13 traditions to make your child’s first day of school extra special

11. “Be yourself.”

One of the most important phrases a parent can say to their kid on their first day of school is to be themselves. Give your child the confidence to be who they are regardless of what other kids say.

A version of this post was published August 18, 2021. It has been updated.