By Sarah Edwards (Head of Curriculum, Early Years)
The big day has arrived. Some mourn it, some rejoice in it. Either way it is the start of a new season in your child’s life. As we prepare ourselves and our children emotionally and mentally it will suddenly dawn on us, “how did the time fly by!” It’s important to also bear in mind that children’s reactions to school will differ from one child to another so it’s important to show support and guidance unique to your child. Even the return to a familiar context has its excitements, joys and anxieties. For children ‘change’ can bring a multitude of feelings and thoughts. There are many language, social and personal competencies at this age that students are gaining that impact their confidence and expectations about school. Some children accept and enjoy ‘change’ more than others. It is not unusual for even the most “experienced” or “confident” child to need some extra attention during the first days and weeks of school.
Here are a few simple things you can do to support your child in the weeks leading up to the beginning of school:
- Talk about their ideas and feelings about school– Ask your child what they know about school and what they think it might be like, talk to them about what they are looking forward to and anything they might be unsure about. Reading their “Today is the Day” book with Iggy the bug or another book about school can help to begin conversations about school. Encourage them when they are unsure and build the excitement and positive attitudes to school make a big difference to school confidence.
- Establish a good sleep routine– over the holidays often routines are slightly ‘looser’ than usual. A week or two before school begins getting into a night time sleep routine ensuring your child is in bed and getting adequate sleep. Having a predictable pattern before bed also helps students settle to sleep (e.g. have a bath, read a story, say goodnight, say a prayer together and turn off the light). Children of primary school age need approximately 10-12 hours of sleep every night. Well rested children function better at school and are a lot happier in the morning.
- Practice getting ready in the morning- Have a few ‘pretend school mornings’ in the lead up to the first day that you pretend to get ready for school. Practice waking up at the right time, eating breakfast, getting dressed, packing a bag, putting on their shoes and socks and putting everything in the car. Making a visual chart together with some drawings or photos with labels can be a great literacy and sequencing activity.
- Rehearse and practice self-help hygiene skills– Feeling confident in looking after one self can make a big difference to school confidence. Skills like washing their hands, blowing their own nose and using buttons and ties when taking clothes off and on for toileting are often expected to be managed by themselves although, they can always ask for assistance if needed.
- Include your child in shopping for ‘school things’– Making a special shopping trip and including your child in the task of shopping for items can build excitement and be a lovely bonding experience. Get your child to help you find items stationary items on the shelves or choose some special ‘school snacks’ or a special lunchbox etc.
- Goodbyes– Parting from your child can be equally as hard for you as the parent as it for your child, and sometimes your child will run off without even saying goodbye to you which causes an invisible bruise to your heart. Tears, screams and sadness are not uncommon for children (or parents). It can be helpful to explain to your child the jobs that all of the members of your family are doing that day and explain to them that their ‘job’ today is to learn new things at school. Explain to them that when you leave both of you have jobs to do and you (or Daddy or Grandma etc.) are coming back to pick them up. Before school begins have a few times when you leave them with a trusted adult, even if it is just for a few hours while you do the shopping, and use this moment to practice some kind of short and sweet goodbye ‘ritual’. Talk with your child about what this ‘ritual’ could be. It might just a special hug, a secret handshake, a short prayer, a kiss on the cheek, a high five or just a wink. After this is done it is important that you do not linger or hesitate in leaving. Teachers are contactable by email or phone through the school office throughout the day if you would like to just ‘check in’ on your child and they will call if there is a problem with your child settling into their school day. It is our experience that a majority of upset children settle into the school day quite quickly after their parents leave. The more positive and happy you show your child you are about them starting school the more it will help your child to be happy to be at school.
- Visit the school before the first day of school- Even if your child is familiar with the school, having a recent visit to the school and the classroom can help to calm your child’s nerves on that first morning.
We are praying for you and your child/ren to have an excellent transition into the beginning of the school year. It is always great to talk and share your experiences with other parents so Solid Grounds coffee cart will be open and ready for you to chat to a listening ear if you feel you need it.
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