Small steps to big school
If your child is set to start school this September, as a parent you’re probably experiencing a range of emotions, excitement at the prospect of the next big milestone approaching mixed with a feeling of sadness when you think that your little angel is no longer a babe in arms and he’s off into the wide world to experience all it has to offer and more.
Perhaps your little one has never been cared for by anyone but family, or maybe she has attended nursery, gone to a childminder or has been at home with her nanny since an early age. Whatever your previous childcare arrangements have been, school is a far more structured and formal learning environment and your child will need time and support to adjust to the changes she will experience.
Taking the lead
As a parent, you will take up your position firmly outside the classroom door, from the moment your little one enters the exciting new environment, he will be navigating the social and educational waters on his own but if you take time to affirm and instil confidence ahead of the start date, you’ll be well on your way to a calm and happy transition.
There is no doubt that your child’s personality plays a big part in their approach to new situations but you can help them to feel secure in the process by starting to encourage and create an element of excitement about starting school.
Top tips for a smooth start:
✔ Take a walk or drive past the new school on a regular basis and explain to your child that soon, he will be going there every week day
✔ If you have met any children at the pre-term session, arrange a couple of playdates so that your child has an opportunity to make friends before the start of term
✔ Involve your child in choosing her uniform, shoes and items for her school bag
✔ At home, you may wish to play classroom inspired role play games where your child can practice putting up a hand to ask a question, sitting still and taking direction
✔ If you child will have a peg on which to hang a bag and coat, practice this at home each time you go out or come back in
✔ Using the toilet independently is a big must, work on your child’s confidence at home, using the toilet, flushing and washing hands. Instil this early on and your child should be able to continue this practice at school
Reading, set, learn
A classroom is for learning and it may take some time for your child to adjust, particularly if you have a very spirited child or one who is used to running around and enjoying life at full speed!
It may be that you need to adjust the bedtime and morning routine to fit in with the journey and the time school starts. You may wish to buy your child a new alarm clock, a special treat for starting big school. Teach your child how to set the alarm each night as part of a bedtime routine so that she feels included in the process and understands that when the alarm goes off, it is time to get up and get ready for school.
Preschool aged children need a minimum of 11 hours sleep a night and studies have shown that children who regularly sleep for less than the required number of hours can suffer from poor concentration and even obesity.
By working backwards from the time your child needs to be at school, you can decide how much time you need to get ready in the mornings. Take your child’s personality into account, if they struggle to get up in the mornings, then allow extra time so that they are not too grumpy and being rushed from one task to the next before heading out the door.
Bedtime is key, having a set routine each night will help your child to know what is coming next. She will know that bedtime is around the corner and that quiet time with a story and some positive discussions about the following day will be part of her new evening routine.
You may also want to involve your child in making his packed lunch, selecting and laying out his school clothes the night before so that all is ready and he can have an opportunity to participate in and reinforce the plan for the day ahead. Set his alarm and pack the school bag and any sport or extracurricular activity items he may need to take along.
Keep in mind that you should aim for around 11 hours sleep, so if your child needs to be up by 7am, they should be in bed no later than 8pm. You may wish to have your child in bed half an hour before, allowing them to read or be read to, until it is time to sleep. Avoid stimulants in food and drink, and limit TV close to bedtime.
The big day
By allowing enough time in the morning for your child to get up, have breakfast, get dressed and go through the morning routine without being rushed, you are all far more likely to leave the house ready for the day ahead without any added stress.
Arrive a little early, give your child time to adjust to the school grounds, take a walk around and ask your child questions, reassuring them with positive answers. If you’re happy and confident, your child is more likely to mirror the same.
If you were able to arrange a couple of playdates before the big day, see if you can find your child’s new friend so that they can play and enjoy the excitement on the first day, together. When the bell goes and teacher is ready to collect all her new students together in the classroom, a quick hug and a kiss with some reassuring words will help your child to feel secure as they head off for their new adventure.
If your child is clingy and crying, hard as it will be, reassure your child with a big smile and some words of encouragement. You can say that you will be back in a little while to fetch them and you can both talk about all the exciting things that you did that day. Talk to your child about their options while at school, if they feel scared or they need to talk to someone, they should feel confident in going to a teacher or other designated adult so that you are called in or your child’s issue is dealt with in the right way should the need arise. Your child will soon settle and before you know it, they will be learning, playing and making new friends.
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