Starting school is a big moment for children, but also for their parents too! Your family life will experience changes, and preparing your child to start school before the big day arrives makes the transition easier on everybody. Here are some tips to help your child feel ready for this next big step.
Practice basic skills.
Using the toilet independently, reading letters and numbers, recognising their name when written and being able to follow basic instructions are just some skills you might want to think about before starting school.
Do a trial run.
Make arrangements to visit the school together and meet the teacher. Try to think about areas of school life that your child might find confronting – knowing where the toilets are, where they can play at lunchtime, how to get to their classroom, where they can get a drink of water and where you’ll be picking them up is a good start.
There is a huge range of books available that deal with the topic of starting school in a positive and uplifting way. Whether you buy them or borrow from the library, reading about the subject together can make it seem less threatening. Many children’s TV shows also feature episodes where the main characters go to school for the first time.
Make it fun.
Instead of seeing uniform shopping and buying school supplies as a chore, turn it into a chance to spend some one-on-one time with your child and get them involved in the process. Depending on their personality they might want to do a fashion show in their uniform, show their new purchases to other members of the family, or help decorate their new belongings.
Know their level.
If they have previously been attending kindy or day-care, have a chat to the educators to see what your child has been doing. Most states make available online a list of basic skills they expect school-aged children to have mastered, although don’t panic if your child isn’t quite there yet – children learn fast! If you do have any concerns, their future teacher is a good person to speak to.
Children do pick up on their parents’ emotions, so try to keep your approach upbeat but calm – at least in front of them! While you definitely don’t want to focus on the negatives, for some children there is such a thing as too much enthusiasm. For most children it helps to approach the day like a fun adventure instead of a huge, life-changing event (even though you know it is!).
School encourages independence – which is a good thing, but you need to know that your child will talk to you or a trusted adult if they are experiencing a problem. Start to practice communicating before they go to school. Open communication looks different for each family, but setting time aside for one-on-one chat about their day is vital.
It’s also important that you try to keep those talks as a safe space, where they don’t feel like they will get into trouble for sharing with you (within reason of course!). Setting up a habit of communicating about the small things will give them the opportunity to share any big things that might come up.
Gather people around you who can support you and your family during this time – join a parenting forum, speak to the teacher, try to meet other families going to the same school, or chat to people who have been through the process before. Soon the whole process will become routine, and you’ll be able to advise other parents in the same position.