Starting school for the first time is a major milestone for children and parents.
Leading family relationship expert Dr Karen Phillip shares her tips to make the transition to school easy and fun.
1. Have a few trial lunch days
Pack the child a lunch box at home (if not done at pre-school) and ensure they eat correct little lunch (morning tea) first then big lunch; this is particularly important if all food is in one lunch box. And ensure they can unwrap their lunch.
2. Shop together for stationery, shoes and uniform
Check the school equipment list and make the shopping list together to help make it fun and exciting.
Shop ahead to avoid last minute rushing and unnecessary stress.
Getting their school uniform will allow the child to feel big.
Ensure they are comfortable in their new uniform look, have them choose their lunch box and drink bottle or backpack.
This allows them to have ownership of the school experience.
3. Children need to be aware of the time frame of preparing for school each morning
Much conflict erupts of a morning between parents and children when the children are slow to become ready for school or bus.
Set clear expectations and consequences so they understand and remember that children under about seven years old have no concept of time, so telling them you have half-an-hour to get ready will mean nothing to them.
4. Use a calendar or planner to show your child what is happening each day
This will help reduce any anxiety or confusion and get them ready for the day/week ahead.
Get them involved in the planning — even if they can’t write yet, they can use a stamp or draw a picture or symbol.
Frixion pens and stamps are good for this as they are erasable and so if plans change, they can be rubbed out to avoid any confusion.
5. Separating from the child when they start school
Mum standing at the gate crying will only tell the child that this school is scary and bad.
Parents hugging their child emotionally and telling them how much they will miss their child will make the child sad and anxious.
First day, meet the teacher, show your child around, smile and go.
Drop off and leave with a smile, perhaps wearing a large dark pair of sunglasses to hide any tears or emotion.
6. Take the child to the school and show them around
Many children are scared they do not know where their classroom is or where the toilets are. Show them their area and toilets. Schools have orientation days in December to help with this.
7. Label everything
All clothing, bags, lunch box and drink bottle.
If the child puts their item down and other children’s items are the same, a child can become distressed thinking the other child has taken their item or it’s lost.
Labelling all items will prevent this and assist the teacher to sort out correct belongings. Place their first name and first letter of surname at least.