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Is your child starting school in September? – Some simple tips for a smooth transition
If you’re a parent whose child is starting primary school in a few weeks’ time, no doubt you’ll have already been thinking about practical things like school uniforms.
But what about helping your little one prepare for such a big life change on an emotional level?
At Place2Be, we know from our decades of experience working in schools that coping with changes can sometimes be challenging for young children.
And as a mother myself, I think it’s often harder for us parents. I remember that first day so vividly as my little one marched off in a line to his new classroom…
Here are a few practical things you can do to prepare your child for this change and help to make starting school a stress-free and hugely positive experience and key moment and memory for everyone:
1. Think positive – children are often surprisingly aware of the emotions of their parents. If you seem worried about the start of school, your child is likely to pick up on it as you are their role model. Try not pass on any of your own anxieties to your children by staying positive! Keep calm and confident …
2. It’s ok to be nervous – if your child is nervous make sure you let them know that this is a completely normal way to feel. Try to give examples of times when you were nervous and how you overcame those nerves, for instance, “when I started my new job I was really nervous, but then I thought ‘I can do this!’ … and I could!”
3. Talk about school – part of this role modelling is talking positively about what it’s like to go to school to give your child a sense of what to expect. One way of doing this is using story books. A good example is ‘It’s time for school, stinky face by Lisa McCourt’ which talks about children’s anxieties in a fun and accessible way.
4. Prepare yourself – attend open days, make sure you meet the class teacher, and find out as much as you can about the welcome initiatives your child’s school offers, for instance some have buddying schemes. Talk to your child about what’s going to happen and use their teacher’s name as much as possible to prepare them.
5. Ask for help – encourage your child to ask for help if they have a problem. This is a vital life skill that all children can learn from an early age. Talk to them about who they might talk to and when, for instance their teacher, classroom assistant, school counsellor, lunchtime supervisor etc.
6. It’s good to talk – try to put aside a little time each day to spend one-to-one when you can actively listen to your child. This can be during another quiet activity such as playing together, which may help them to open up.
7. Be observant – keep an eye out for unusual changes in behaviour in the first few weeks of school, such as becoming very withdrawn and uncommunicative or alternatively lashing out and becoming boisterous. This may indicate they are having a problem at school. But don’t forget, it’s completely normal that they’ll be very tired in the first few weeks!
8. Be kind to yourself – it’s a big change for children but it’s also a big change for us parents. Whether you get upset or not, don’t be hard on yourself about your emotional reaction. There is no right or wrong way to feel at this time, it’s unique to you.
Hopefully these tips will help smooth the transition for both parents and children. I know it can be so hard to watch them go on that first day. Having in my mind that our role as parents is to help our children to grow up and be independent, and that this is another of those big steps on that journey certainly helped me.