With the school year about to commence, tension will be building for many new school starters and their parents. It can be a difficult transition for both parents and their 'preppies' but there are a few ways that you can make the transition more comforting for both of you.
Professor Christine Ure, Head of School in the Faculty of Arts and Education at the University of Deakin, has provided some advice on introducing your 'preppies' to school life:
What is school?
Help your child construct a narrative about school life. The summer holidays are a great time to prepare and slowly introduce them to school life.
"If they know that on the first day of school, 'Daddy will drive me in the car, I will go to this big building, I will walk through these gates with my friend,' and the like, that can really help," says Professor Ure.
Join with them in creating the narrative, take them past their new school on a regular basis and help them imagine themselves playing in the playground and walking through the gates. Answer any questions they may have, explaining to them that school is normal and that it is a new chapter in their life.
Communicate with your child about how they will get to and from school and who will be taking them.
"If the school is located near by, walk your child there and if they'll be walking to school with a friend, ask them along too. If not, take a drive to the school so they get a sense of where it is," she suggests. It can also be useful to walk them around the school and play in the playground, if possible.
By creating familiarity with your child, you can prevent their nerves and anxiety about getting to and from school.
Involve school in their play
Professor Christine Ure suggests getting them to draw a picture of their school and place themselves in the picture. "That can be a really powerful way of helping them to clearly visualise themselves taking part in school life," says Professor Ure.
School life can also be introduced through imaginative play, for example, encourage them to pretend to be a 'big school kid.' This can help them to be responsible for their belongings, and will help them understand what to expect once the start of school comes.
Quite often, part of the struggle with getting used to school life is the change in routine, so getting your child used to school routines over the summer holidays can be really helpful for them.
"A great activity to do during the summer holidays is to let your child help pack their lunch box and school bag for a picnic in the backyard or the local park," says Professor Ure.
Practicing these routines can help your child to feel more comfortable with transitioning into school life and can eliminate stress and anxiety associated with the way that school works. Your child will most likely have many questions regarding routines at school, this will be their way of processing how it all works. So, if you create excitement around the questions, rather than emotions, it will make them feel more comfortable
Uniforms are a big part of the transition to school. Your child may find it difficult to understand that they have to wear the same thing everyday, so letting them wear their school clothes around the house can be a useful way to create the transition. Often school uniforms have unfamiliarities to them, like zippers, buttons and clips or velcro on their shoes, so help them practice putting it on.
"Let them wear their school clothes and help put them on so that they learn to manage all of their buttons, clips and zips on their unfamiliar clothes," she says.
Starting school is an emotional time for you and your child and it can be hard, as a parent, to hide your emotions as you see them off on their first day. Professor Ure stresses the importance of speaking positively about school as the day becomes closer, "try to take the emotional tension out of the situation when you can," she says.
Turn emotional phrases such as 'I can't believe my baby is growing up,' into positive phrases such as 'I am so excited for your next adventure, you're going to have so much fun!'
"Your child will take their positive cues from you," says Professor Ure. "School is their new world and they needn't feel they are leaving mum and dad behind."
"On the first day, parents need to leave their children confidently. By all means, stay for a few minutes, but don't feel like you need to hang around as emotions can quickly escalate," Professor Ure suggests. She continues to re-iterate that, should you feel tears coming on, move away from your child because they will respond to your emotions.
Following these steps can help your child's transition into school life much easier and more comfortably. By providing them with positive re-inforcements and cues, they will look at school life as a positive part of their new, grown up life.