New uniforms, sensible shoes, hats, backpacks, and funky lunch boxes are being purchased. Our ‘big’ kindy kids are starting orientation at their new school and ‘school’ is the new buzz word at home.
Exciting times? Well for most families getting ready to start school can be joyous but for others it can be an anxious time.
Many children in Australia have started their introduction to their new school, class room and teacher. Some parents may be wondering ‘is this the best time and age for them to start school, and will this teacher emotionally scar my child for life?’ (No disrespect for teachers intended, I personally hold teachers in very high regard, my Mum was a teacher). Other parents are gleeful with anticipation at their little ones flying from the nest and off to school, as they are extremely ready and have been keen to wear their oversized new uniform for months.
It is important to keep a check on expectations, emotions, and realistic projections for both you and your child. Sometimes this new change is even bigger for parents than it is the child. It is so important to do our best not to project our own anxieties and fears onto our children, but to assist them in becoming resilient, and confident.
We decided to wait until our son was six to start school. He was ready intellectually, but emotionally he did not want to go to school, change has never been his strongest suit. We found a great school, a loving and caring teacher, prepared him as much as possible and off we went. Well, he cried every morning for the first week. It was so hard to leave him, I would cry too as soon as I was out of sight; but I knew he was in good hands. He stuck to his teacher like glue and when we picked him up every day, he felt a little better about the whole idea. On the Saturday morning he woke up, and when we told him it was not a school day he cried because he wanted to go!
Naturally parents desire this transition to be as smooth and relaxed as possible for all concerned. Sometimes no matter how prepared we all think we are, being a human being can really mix up the outcome.
Here are 10 tips for parents to prepare themselves and their children as much as possible:
- Really listen to your child’s expressions about how they are feeling about their new journey, sometimes they need their feelings heard and acknowledged, not necessarily ‘fixed’. Help them find their own solutions, this will empower them and help them build their resilience.
- Do your best to keep your own fears to yourself, and if you had any unpleasant memories of your first school days, leave them in the past, your child is not you.
- Find fun and informative books about starting school, and your child may love to hear your funny stories about when you started school and the fun things that happened.
- Each child will have their own experience so comparing to others will not be helpful. There is no one way to be, some will take to school like ‘ducks to water’ others will flap around for a while, until they find their way.
- Practise getting ready in the mornings a week or so before school starts, so your child knows what to do and what your expectations are. Have a ‘home time’ routine too, unpacking their own bag, a healthy protein snack to help them get through until dinner time to prevent ‘hitting the wall’.
- Through Kindy transition programmes and orientation days at school your child will be informed about how things will run, much of this information will at first not be absorbed or be overwhelming. Many children will find the stricter timetable and expectations of sitting still and waiting your turn to be a huge challenge. Even asking the teacher to go to the toilet can be embarrassing for children. Talk about this at home and role play some of the situations that you think may arise.
- Remember in the first term especially, children will need an early routine for bedtime, as they become quite exhausted learning new skills, emotionally, socially and intellectually. Start this bedtime routine before they start school. If they have been used to napping previously, stop naps a few months before school starts and help them find other ways to recharge.
- To prepare for smooth sailing, parents prepare yourselves with a routine, prepare as much as you can the night before. Inform yourself about the school timetables, drop off and pick up points, school rules, what happens if your child is unwell and programmes the school offers. Better still involve yourself in your child’s school activities if possible.
- If your child does not know any children in their new class, at orientation time organise play dates with the other children so they have the opportunity to start forming new friendships.
- Before term starts, practise getting up earlier and address other preparations that will be required; a like getting into the car on time – dressed. Show them how to pack their bag, and other skills that will prepare them for what will be expected of them e.g.: getting dressed promptly, writing their name, being able to open drink bottles and lunch boxes by themselves, and feel confident and self assured about politely speaking up and asking questions when they are not sure about what is happening or where they need to go.
This is a time of really letting go. Your ‘baby’ is growing up! You won’t be able to be there to soften the falls and challenges while they are in school, but you will be there at home time to gather them up, kiss and cuddle them and wait to hear about their day, when they are ready to tell you, that is. Sometimes at the end of a school day they are so ‘blown out’ by their experiences, it is just too much to be able to try and express themselves, so your loving inquiry of ‘what did you do today?’ may just be met with a ‘can’t remember’. Hang in there! It gets better and easier.
Oh and one more tip; Start practising how to make a costume in 24 hours and put a project together overnight!