Preparing Your Child For School by Shannon Fewings-Hall
At this time there are many families preparing to send their children to school – whether it be their first day or returning for another year.
Here are some ways you can prepare for school and help to reduce any anxieties you or your child may be having.
Preparing for School
It’s common for children, and their parents to feel nervous about starting or going back to school. I recall my own feelings about starting the new school year (a sweet mixture of excitement and fear). Here are some great ways to prepare for school.
- Familiarize your child with the school environment. Show them where their classroom will be, introduce them to their teacher.
- Focus on the positives – learning to read, making new friends, being with their older siblings, being a ‘big girl or boy’.
- Prepare a routine before school begins, such as making a set bedtime and time for rising. Practice getting ready for school to make sure that you have enough time to get ready.
- Ensure you have everything you need well ahead of time (eg uniform, bag, shoes etc).
- Label everything – things do and will go missing! If it’s labeled it’s more likely to be found – otherwise you’ll need to go and spend extra money on a hat or jumper. Include spare underwear – children this age still have occasional accidents and having spare clothes will reduce their embarrassment.
- Be available to answer questions from your child. Openly encourage them to ask questions about what school will be like. This helps them alleviate their anxieties.
- Discuss safety issues – sun safety, road safety, playground safety and stranger danger. Don’t take it for granted that they know how to deal with these issues on their own.
- Be aware of their behaviour leading up to school and following the start of school. Are they having nightmares? Are they experiencing disturbed sleep? Are they acting up more? Are they sticking close to you? These can be signs that are anxious about starting school? Remember starting school is a big adjustment for some children. If you touch base with them on a daily basis and ask them how they are feeling and whether they have any questions then they are more likely to make the transition more easily.
- The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour – if your child has had trouble separately in the past (eg at granny’s house, childcare, or preschool) there’s a good chance they’ll have trouble separating at school too. This is normal – they just need a bit more time. I recently told a friend not to expect their child to be settled in a school for at least 3 months. The routine at childcare or preschool is quite relaxed (where children are allowed and encouraged to ‘float’ from one activity to another), whereas school is much more regimented and requires a lot more concentrated.
- If you are separated or divorced from your partner try to create a school routine before the child starts. Ensure that the child is aware of who will be picking them up or dropping them off on any given day (ie record it on a calender and talk to them about it). At school there are many class and school events – if relations a tense between yourself and your partner try to work out a way where you can both attend events or even take turns.
- If you child has special needs, be sure to speak to the staff at the school beforehand to ensure that their needs will be addressed and catered for. Keep in regular contact with the teacher throughout the year to address needs as they arise.
- Practice social skills – Some children find it difficult making friends at school because they are shy or perhaps over-bearing. By practicing ’school’ scenarios you can help instill the social skills needed for them to make and maintain school friendships.
First day at School
- Even if your child is returning to school be sure to take photos or video, as a memento. It’s also fun to compare photos of your child from one year to the next to see how much they’ve grown and changed.
- Chances are they won’t sleep too well the night before, out of nerves or excitement. Try to maintain their sleep routine and resettle them as required.
- Try to have the morning free of other commitments. Stay as long as the child wants you to (if allowed – often schools will encourage the parents to leave before too long to speed up the separation).
- Don’t be surprised at how you react – whether that be ‘cool, calm and collected’ or a blubbering mess. Each is normal. I was very calm with my oldest daughter and extremely proud. I expect with my twins though, that I will be far more emotional, as they will be my last and it will be the ‘end of an era’ so to speak.
- Build your child’s confidence at school by giving them lots of praise. Start with small things such as getting dressed, carrying their own bag, using their manners with the teacher. Then as time goes on – doing their homework, remembering their library books, being kind to their friends etc.
As time goes on….
- Be sure to stay in touch with your children about school. Ask them regularly ‘How it’s going?’, ‘What are you doing in class at the moment?’, ‘Who did you play with today?’. They may not tell you straight away, but when the day they do want to talk they’ll know your there to listen.
- Life is often hectic, whether it be work, caring for younger children or other commitments and the last thing you want to be in the evening is help your child with their homework. Try to set a good example though by making a regular time for homework. Help your child when required and offer lots of praise and support.
- Act quickly if you notice problems – whether it be socially or academically. If dealt with quickly there’s less chance of it having a long-term impact.
- Keep motivating them. Chances are there’ll be days they don’t want to go (just like we have days we don’t want to go to work or study ourselves). It can be tough sometimes, but encourage them to focus on the good things.
- Resist the temptation to compare children. Lets face it there will always be children who are the most popular, the smartest, the best at sport etc. Try to resist the temptation to compare your child to others (it’s a no-win situation!). All children have strengths and weaknesses (just like adults). Focus on your child’s strengths and explain that it’s uncommon for children to be good at everything. Only stress about those things that the teacher tells you to work on (being able to draw magnificent unicorns or being able to recite the name of every single dinosaur species isn’t any good if the child can read and write).
- Finally, enjoy this wonderful, amazing, constantly surprising time of your child’s life and be extremely proud of both your child and yourself for reaching this achievement.
Shannon Fewings-Hall lives in Australia with her husband and three children (including twins). She has a Masters Degree in Psychology and runs her own online children’s boutique called Minifashionista (http://www.minifashionista.com.au) which provides a funky range of baby clothing, toys and accessories for boys and girls aged 0-4 years. She also writes a popular style/parenting blog called fashionistablog (http://www.fashionistablog.wordpress.com).
Cathy is a working mum of three and has found numerous ways to balance time and attention to her children, husband, friends and family.
In an effort to help others this site provides great healthy recipes for kids lunches to make an easy school lunch. HomemadeSchoolLunches.com gives you daily ideas for healthy lunches and healthy kids snacks.Follow me on Twitter | Join My Facebook Fan Page