It’s a timely article for me to write as our second boy Darragh 5yrs is starting school this year. His older brother Oisín 7yrs started two years ago. Being the second he has the opportunity of being up to the school a number of times collecting so he has a familiarity about the place. Yet I have been complacent, Darragh is not Oisín and he has his own way of negotiating the world, so if you have a second or third little one starting school try to look at it from their perspective.
The majority of parents wonder how our little ones are going to adapt to the big change of starting school. Indeed it’s a change for the parents and no doubt there will be tears and happiness, all normal. While going to school for the first time can be exciting for some children, it could also be stressful for others. Any sudden change in a child’s routine can make it extremely stressful for the child. Before you begin to prepare your child for their starting school, it is important you as a parent deal with any anxieties or fears you may have. Children can pick up on such anxieties, making them feel stressed about the idea of starting school and being separated from you. Here are some tips that might help;
- Practice – The first and probably the most important thing you can do for your child to ease any fears or anxieties is to introduce them to the school environment in which they will soon be immersed in. Most schools will facilitate this by means of orientation days. By bringing your child along to the school they will become familiar with not only the physical space but also some of the staff and other fellow pupils. It will give them an idea of what to expect and make them feel more comfortable now that they have their teacher and other children their own age.
- Social Stories – Social stories is in effect the same a coaching skill, by telling a story about social situation in advance such as starting school, what the school day is like eg coats off, sitting down, small break, playing, learning ABC, big break, saying hello etc, This gives the child a verbal “walk through of the day”. ry talk to your child about the positive thingsthat they will most likely appreciate about starting school. These include making new friends, participating in fun activities such as arts & crafts or P.E. Story books about starting school are also useful as they often highlight the positive aspects associated with school. Additionally talk to your child about how they feel about starting school and take note of any concerns or worries they may have. Try to ease these concerns by providing your child with various scenarios.
- Role Play For example; ask your child what do you do if you need to use the toilet. You then inform your child that they need to ask one of grown-up’s in the classroom if they can use the toilet. Give them a different scenario perhaps if the child wants to play with a toy that another child is playing with. Advise your child to wait patiently and perhaps say ‘would you mind if I played with that toy after you have finished’. By preparing your child in this way it will make your child more comfortable and confident in the classroom.
- Preparation In addition to the above it is helpful to bring your child along while you make all the preparations for starting school. Parents who show interest and enthusiasm about school can inspire their children to embrace the same positive thoughts and feelings about school. If possible allow them to pick out their own lunch box and school bag. This will make their first day a school all the more exciting.
- Establish Routine: Another important step in preparing your child for school is getting them used to a routine. Do not wait until the last minute to establish school habits. In the upcoming weeks agree on bed time and wake up times that will resemble the routine whilst school begins. By preparing your child in this way, you are ensuring that they will not feel out of sorts once school does start, which will make the transition easier for both you and your child.
- After School Plans What are the plans for your child after school, do they go to formal or informal childcare or come straight home after school? Will you be collecting your child from school or will a family member, friend or babysitter be collecting them? Some children go to after-school care on certain days only and come straight home other days – ensure your child is aware of any plans so as to avoid confusion or distress. Wall charts can help distinguish these days. If at all possible, try and avoid ‘after-school’ clubs or babysitters during the first week back at school. Your child will no doubt feel tired, excited or even nervous during the first week back, so straight home after school will help to alleviate any anxiety
- On the Day When the day does arrive, it is advisable that you do not linger around the classroom. If your allowed, bring your child into the classroom and tell them you will be back to collect them later, do not set a specific time. A quick exit may be more useful to your child than a drawn-out goodbye. You can call the school later to check on how a young child is doing. And you’ll probably find out that their doing fine.
By keeping in mind the above steps this big transition in both your life and your child’s life can become less stressful. Best of Luck to us all!