Starting school is one of the major transitions in your child’s life. For many children it can be a stressful time, as they deal with being in a new environment and separated from their parents.
There’ll be plenty of time during your child’s school career to think about the academic side of things – but the beginning of Kindy or Prep is not one of them. The most crucial thing you can do for your child at this point is to ensure that they have the social and emotional skills they need for big school.
How to prepare
Approaching the start of the school term, here are some ways that you can ease your child into this new experience.
Familiarise your child with the school environment before their first day – whether you attend a scheduled orientation session or make a time to drop in with your child, meet teachers and get used to the space.
If you know other children who will be starting school with your child, organise a play date so that they can build a rapport. As adults, it’s far easier to attend professional or social events if we know someone else who’ll be there. It’s exactly the same for children, so see if you can facilitate a friendship that will help them feel at ease in their first days.
Chat to your child about their new school in a positive way. Without overwhelming them with too much information, discuss new routines they may take part in, such as lining up or sitting at desks. Storybooks about starting school can be a helpful resource in these discussions. Remember to pay attention to your child’s responses, as they will give you a clue to any potential stressors.
There are plenty of skills you can teach your child to prepare them for the classroom:
- Looking after their belongings.
- Familiarise them with their lunch box. Make sure they know how to open their lunch boxes and containers. The same goes for their water bottle.
- If they are wearing shoe laces, teach them how to tie their shoe laces. Or consider Velcro straps.
- Simple self-calming strategies, such as taking three deep breaths or having a drink of water if they’re upset. You may find Maggie Dent’s imaginative suggestions for easing separation anxiety
- Show your child where the toilets are at school and let them know it’s ok to ask the teacher for permission to go to the toilet when the need arises
- Going to the toilet independently, including using gendered toilet blocks, navigating cubicles and using good hygiene.
- Fine motor skills. Set up activities at home where they can draw, cut with scissors and use other toys that require them to use their fine motor skills.
- Recognising or writing their own name. This gives them a great start and bolsters their confidence.
We recommend that you give your little one plenty of time to relax and have some free play when they get home. Remember, they have been sitting down and trying to pay attention all day. Some early nights in the first term help too, to avoid tired tantrums.
Getting professional help
At Family Doctors Plus, our experienced GPs, speech pathologist, psychologists, physiotherapist and occupational therapist can help you with a range of school-related issues – from getting the right pencil grip to help with anxiety, speech or toileting concerns.
We have children of our own and we’re active in our community and local schools, so we understand that transitioning to Kindy or Prep can be a challenging time. We wish you and your child a great start – get in touch if you need us.