Starting school is an exciting time in a child’s life. It can also be an anxious time for children and parents alike.
So, how can we help our child prepare for school in such a way that will minimise their anxiety and allow them to look forward to the journey ahead?
There are some simple things you can do to give your child the confidence to be ready to face the challenges that school will present to them. Hopefully they will also give you peace of mind that your child will be ready to face school for the first time.
Let me suggest these things to prepare your child for primary school.
HELPFUL WAYS TO PREPARE YOUR CHILD FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL
CHECK OUT THE PRIMARY SCHOOL
Firstly, if you get a chance, visit the school. Some schools welcome families to visit the campus, explore the playground and walk past the classroom so the child is familiar with environment. This may have happened during orientation process late last year. It is an opportunity to remind the child:
“This is your school”
“This is the playground”
“This is your classroom’.”
GET FAMILIAR WITH THE UNIFORM
Second idea: Get your child to try on their school uniform multiple times over the next few weeks. This gives them a sense that they are going to be wearing these clothes to “big school”. It also means you have to wash the uniform and make it a bit softer, to take away that stiffness that comes with any new clothes.
If they have to wear formal shoes for the first time, make sure they spend a few hours walking around in them.
I actually know of children who slept in their uniform with the excitement and anticipation that they’re going to be wearing this too “big school” in the next week.
Children should be able to use buttons, manipulate zips, use shoelaces or Velcro. This way, if they are allowed to take their shoes and socks off, or if they have a swimming lesson, they are able to undress and dress themselves independently.
Remember, your child will be wearing a hat to school so make sure they have “worn in” their new hat.
WORK ON NAME RECOGNITION
Make sure your child can recognise their own name because you’re going to have labelled all their clothes and belongings with it! Not essential but really handy.
ORGANISE SOME PLAYDATES
If they get the opportunity for a playdate with some of their classmates before school it can really help. It also gives you a support base of other parents whose children are starting school for the first time.
Have a conversation with the other mums while your child gets to chat and play with some mates. As a mum, you can share your concerns and wisdom with other parents in a supportive environment. Then, come Day One, you are as calm as possible.
PRACTICE WITH LUNCH
To give your child a sense of independence and confidence it’s important that they are self-sufficient with their eating habits. If they have a new lunchbox make sure your child can open and close it. If you provide a popper to drink, make sure they can open the straw and puncture the carton.
SAY THE TEACHERS NAME
When it comes to the first day, your child needs to know their teacher’s name. It can help to practice saying it. Mrs Smith is easy. Mr Oberthur is not so easy!
Some schools will have released their class lists so you’ll know the teacher’s name and who is in their class. This will allow you to familiarise your child with both the teacher’s name and the names of some of their classmates.
GETTING PREPARED FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL (CONT.)
TALK TO OTHER PARENTS
There will be other parents feeling the same sense of excitement and possibly anxiety that you may be feeling. If so, share those feelings with other parents because they will appreciate knowing that they’re not alone.
When the school offers you Tissues and Tim Tams on the first day, or the first week, take the opportunity to go and meet other parents.
When it comes to your child’s learning experiences what you do and what you’ve already done will set them up for academic success.
The greatest gift you can give your child is a love of reading. For this reason, make sure you read with your child now until school starts, and certainly once school has commenced. Some schools may have given you a reading book that will be the basis for the first unit of work. I encourage you to read that book multiple times before school starts.
TEACH OTHER BASIC SKILLS
Engaging with books is critical. Other foundational skills to hold your child in good stead for a successful start at school include:
Knowing the alphabet
While you may be feeling anxious, I stress that you cannot show that anxiety to your child so practice your poker face. Your child needs to know that you are feeling confident and that school is going to be fantastic and exciting. They will feed off your emotion.
To do this, put a smile on your face and speak confidently and optimistically about the exciting challenges and experiences that your child will have at school. You can acknowledge their nerves and that they might be feeling a little bit anxious and that’s quite ok. That’s perfectly normal. Just remember: “If Mum thinks it’s ok, it must be ok”.