Your child’s first year at school is a big milestone.
It’s the beginning of a great adventure into their school years, but it can also be a time of challenge and change. As a parent, it’s also completely normal to worry about your child during this time.
Will my child make friends at school?
Are they going to enjoy school, and are they ready?
Will they adjust to a new routine?
The abundance of information during the transition to school can be overwhelming. There is so much to think about and organise, and as a single mother, you’re already doing so much.
Here are five tips from Early Childhood Australia to keep in mind as you and your child tackle the first year at school together.
Early Childhood Australia (est. 1938) is the peak early childhood advocacy organisation, acting in the interests of young children, their families and those in the early childhood field.
Further reading: 7 Easy ways to help your kids with homework.
5 Essential tips for your child’s first year at school
1. REMIND YOUR CHILD THEY ARE CAPABLE AND CONFIDENT
Research has found that when starting school, children are most concerned about making friends, following the rules or not understanding what’s going on. By the time they’re ready to begin school, most children have already experienced early learning services or playgroups, understand structure and have interacted with a range of children. They are capable and confident learners, and with your support, will transition to school easily.
Additionally, you can
- Remind your child it’s okay to be nervous about starting school, and to listen to any concerns your child may have and answer any questions
- Do a ‘run through’ of the drop-off and pick up journey, take them for a walk around the school pointing out any classrooms and mapping the journey from the rooms to the toilets, canteen, library and your pick-up point.
- Tell your child what you’ll be doing during the day and where you’ll be as some children worry about their family while they’re at school.
School is one of the most important and earliest memories we have, and while we know that it might be challenging sometimes, it’s important to remind your child they’re capable and confident.
2. SUPPORT YOUR CHILD TO MAKE FRIENDS
You have most likely heard the words ‘school readiness’ during the orientation process—but what actually is school readiness?
A common myth is that your child needs to be able to write, read and do basic maths before they start school. Not only is this inaccurate, but it’s a lot of pressure to put on a child. In reality, school readiness focuses on children’s emotional and language development, particularly being able to articulate their needs and follow directions. This is important when tackling your child’s biggest fear about starting school: making friends
As children, we learn how to be friends by watching people around us. We can help children make friends by:
- Modelling respectful relationships with adults and talking about the importance of being respectful—not everyone will be their friend, and that’s okay
- Support your child to get involved with activities such as swimming lessons, sports or music where they can meet other children
- Keep in contact with friends from playgroup or early learning—just because your child has moved on doesn’t mean the friendship has to end.
3. BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SCHOOL
Building a relationship with your child’s teacher and the school helps your child settle in and manage any problems that may come up. For single parents who are co-parenting, communicating your routine with your child’s teacher about who will do pick-up and drop-off important for consistency and child protection.
We know that relationships between parents can get complicated quickly, and being able to confidently and confidentially confide in your child’s teacher is one more person supporting you to do the best for your children.
- Start early and get to know the school staff and your child’s teacher well before your child begins at school via orientations, school nights, or emails
- Once your child has started school, make time to have a quick chat with their teacher as often as possible, keeping in mind pick-up and drop-off times can be as busy for them as they are for you.
- If you feel a problem might be developing, make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher at a mutual time when you are both relaxed and prepared.
First year at school essential tips for parents and carers (cont.)
4. DEAL WITH CONCERNS QUICKLY
It’s common for children to become anxious or unhappy about going to school—most of this is linked to settling into school, but if anxiety continues, it’s a good idea to have a chat with your child’s teacher at a time that suits you both. Most of the time, these anxieties disappear with the support of parents and teachers, and as your child gets used to school.
Some of the times when you may want to seek additional professional advice may include when:
- Your child is unable to cope with what they’re expected to do at school
- Your child has been unhappy for several weeks, or has had significant behavioural changes
- Your child is soiling or wetting themselves during the day
- Your child is struggling to see or hear clearly
- Your child complains of tummy aches or headaches during the school days.
5. REMEMBER YOU‘RE DOING A GREAT JOB
Your child’s first year at school is a year of challenges and changes – for both you and your child. There will be bumps along the way but you’ll also have the opportunity to share in their excitement, revel in their achievements and instil a lifelong love of learning.
This article was adapted from the publication First Year at School: Essential tips for parents and carers by Jenni Connor and Pam Linke (Early Childhood Australia). For more strategies and practical tips to help your child get the most out of their first year.