It is the time of year for preparing your child for starting school. It is an important milestone in their lives and yours. It is bigger than just starting school as you and I see it. It is your child’s initiation into coping with big change in their life. It sets up the child’s attitude, feelings and associations to future life changes. Starting school requires sensitive, careful preparation by family and school.
It is a transition from being in a small family group into a large group of unfamiliar people. It is the first major contact with a large group of people in the child’s life. The child’s attitude, feelings and associations with joining a big group are at stake here. We as parents do not give it a second thought. This is a life changing activity. The more successful the first big life change is and the first group experience is the better will be the child’s attitude to change and joining a group in later life. We know both are crucial parts of living.
Practical Ways to help your child to make the transition to school
There are many things we as parents can do to ease this transition and ensure it is successful for the child. The first thing that comes to mind is making sure your child is fully toilet trained able to carry out all of the tasks necessary to use the toilet. Make sure your child is able to dress himself after toileting and hand washing. This will help the child feel confident and self-assured saving the child from feeling embarrassed. Another task that the child will need to perform is eating with cutlery. It is important the child is able to use a knife, fork and spoon to feed themselves. If the child is bringing lunch to school practice opening and closing the lunch box, opening and closing the drink container. Make sure your child is able to put on, close up and take off their coat and shoes.
The local library has children’s books on ‘Going to School’ with pictures so the child can build up images, visualize what to expect at school and what to expect at each time of the day. Read the book over and over, talk about the different times of the day, what is expected from the child in school. Look at ‘starting school’ videos on you tube. This will reduce your child’s stress levels.
Bring your child to any open days prior to going to school. This will help your child know what to expect, get to see the teacher, meet and build friendships with the other children in his class. If that cannot happen arrange to meet the teacher at a different time and other class mates if possible. Show your child where the toilet is, how to use the toilet if it is different from your home toilet, where to hang their coats, places to put their lunches etc. Go to the play ground where the child will play so that the child is familiar with as many things as possible before they start school.
Preparing your Child for Starting School: Create Emotional Safety
Tell your child the simple rules of the school in a fun way. Talk about the teacher and the principals roles of keeping the children safe etc. Talk about each part of the child’s day and what they will be doing at that time. Emphasize the time you will be collecting him over and over so he is aware you are coming back for him. Talk about collecting him, the stories of school he is going to tell you etc. Create happy visions of him going to school and being in school. This will help your child to be comfortable and ease his way to school or pre-school.
Preparing your Child for Starting School: Model Social Skills
Model ways of being with other children. Model starting a conversation, having a conversation and ending a conversation. Your child will be able to copy your lead and make friends more easily. Model taking turns, play lots of turn taking games. Model sharing, create opportunities for your child to share with you, other family members or play mates. Teach your child as many social skills as possible before they go to school this will help them to build relationships. Some children will have excellent social skills. Some children will need a little extra help.
If possible, before their first day at school or pre-school get to know other families whose child will be in the same class. Organise some play dates so that your child has a friend or familiar face when starting school or preschool. This will help to make the transition less stressful.
Preparing your Child for Starting School: Have All Supplies Ready
Make sure your child has all the materials needed to start school, their school uniform, school bag, school books, pencils, pens, lunch box etc. Having all the supplies needed, reduces their stress levels. If you can help your child to recognise his own name and write his own name this will help your child too.
Preparing your Child for Starting School: Active Listening
Actively listen to your child’s hopes, fears, expectations etc. Listen intently, reflect back the child’s feelings and have conversations about their feelings, worries and fears. Sort out any stressing issues possible. This will help your child to express themselves and let go of their fears.
All of the above things will help your child to settle into their new school or play school easily. It will help them to have a positive attitude to transitions, change and joining a group. It will ensure your child’s positive attitude to school creating a wonderful experience.
I hope this makes your child’s first day at school easy and stress free. Let me know in the comments below if you have any other strategies that worked? Also how did you and children get on at their first day of school?
Wishing you a happy, harmonious home