To Tag Along or Let Go? Parents' First-Day Dilemma

"If you can make a connection with the teacher before the first day of school, that's wonderful," Domene said. "Then you don't have a stranger educating your child."

Domene adds that parents should also meet with the principal and the school secretary -- two other figures who will likely play a large role in a student's school experience.

"This is just like building a relationship with anyone you do business with; you need to build a relationship with that school," she said.

How to Let Go

But when it comes to standing by your child, how much is too much? It turns out that for parents, gauging exactly how far their presence should extend into school walls is a delicate balancing act.

"You don't want what's called 'helicopter parents,'" Domene said. "Helicopter parents are those parents who hover over everything. It becomes a nuisance in a way; that is not a help."

Worse, Domene says, such nurturing can also backfire. "Other students will have a tendency to think, 'This is a little momma's baby.'"

For young children, parents may do well to institute a five-minute limit on the first day, staying only long enough to ensure that their child is settled in.

"It is really helpful for the child when a parent walks them into a classroom, maybe introduces them to another child, gives them a kiss and a hug and says, 'Have a great day. Tell me about it when you get home,'" said Danielle Kassow, associate of research and evaluation at Thrive by Five Washington.

Sarah Smith, senior editor of New York-based Parenting Magazine, agrees.

"The key is to not linger too long," she said. "Set up the situation ahead of time with kid. Walk in, kiss goodbye and leave.

"Lots of parents make the mistake of staying longer if their kids cry when they leave. That doesn't do anybody any good."

But Kassow adds that parents must also make sure to let their kids know when they are on the way out the door.

"It is not good to drop a child off and then sneak out," she said. "That can be really damaging. In that situation, the child says, 'Oh no, where did my parent go?' ... It creates a situation of mistrust."

But while many parents may feel as if they are walking a tightrope with their child's development, the good news is that kids can give cues of their own -- something St. Aude quickly learned.

"My older daughter was always really blunt about it; she would roll her eyes and say, 'I'm OK,'" St. Aude said. "She got to the point where she begged to ride the school bus."

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