I found this article from my Local Children's centre page and thought I would share these very useful tips for parents with children due to start school this September. I know Jack is both excited and also a little worried about going to a new school he isn't familiar with.
Some children cannot wait to start school and eagerly look forward to their first day. For other children the reality of starting school creates anxiety and worry. Children cope better with these transitions when they are well prepared.
Here are some ideas for preparing children to start school.
- Talk or read to your child about starting school. Answer questions and talk about school, but don't overload the child with information all at once. Check out a local bookshop or library for children's books on starting school. These books can be read often to children as a way of preparing them for what lies ahead.
- Tell your child when school will start and make sure they are familiar with the surroundings. You may have already taken your child to visit the school but if you haven't, make sure they know where the toilets, lunch and play areas are.
- If possible, involve your child in buying things for school such as stationery, schoolbags, lunch box, clothes or uniform.
- Let your child know that you will be there on the first day. On the first day, some schools may permit parents of new entrants to stay with their child until they are settled. This is reassuring to a youngster who may be feeling anxious. If you say you're going to stay, make sure you do.
- On the first day at school stay with your child as long as you are required. Make yourself as unobtrusive as possible but gently prompt your child to become involved in the classroom's activities rather than clinging to you. Some children who have had separating problems at preschool may experience similiar problems now. If your child usually gets upset when you leave but settles quickly when you're gone, be prepared to explain you are going, say goodbye, and leave. It might take a few days for your child to get used to being in the new situation. However, most children quickly adapt to the excitement and challenge of starting school. Occasionally children can develop a marked fear of going to school (school phobia). Usually such children are not frightened of school per se, although some can be, but they are afraid of separating ftom their parents. If your child is extremely difficult to get to school, complains of aches and pains on school mornings, screams and in other ways protests about going to school, seek advice from the class teacher on how best to handle the situation. Generally speaking, it is very important that such a child miss as little school as possible.
- Getting Into a Good School Morning Routine. School mornings are smoother for everyone when children are in a good morning routine. This involves children learning to do what's required and learning to do most things for themselves, without constant reminders. At this age your child can be expected to be more independent in getting themselves out of bed, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, packing school bags and being ready to leave at a particular time.
Difficulties arise when parents do everything for the child, are late in getting up, or are disorganised in the morning. In some homes the morning routine is unpleasant, with parents yelling at children to get them out the door. Here are some ideas for making the morning routine more pleasant and less stressful.
- Put your child to bed at a reasonable time. This is important as children with insufficient sleep find it hard to wake up and are often grumpy and irritable in the morning.
- Be organised. Get everything you and your child need ready the night before. Make sure school clothes are easy to locate and put on and get up in plenty of time yourself.
- Start an activity schedule for the morning routine. This will help your child learn the steps they must follow in the morning. An activity schedule is a simple chart to help children learn to do tasks in a particular order. It involves having a picture, drawing or words that can be placed on a velcro strip to represent the "step". The strip can be attached to the wall in a convenient location (e.g. kitchen wall, bedroom, bathroom). When your child completes each step, the velcro strip can be removed and placed in a container under the chart. For the first few days, you can give your child reminders, but keep them to a minimum. Children will not learn to do things for themselves if they become reliant on reminders. Once your child can do each step with only one prompt, phase out reminders. Make sure you pay particular attention and praise your child when they perform a step on their own, without first being reminded. Avoid getting angry or irritated. Speak to your child pleasantly in the morning. Getting angry and irritated makes it harder for children to learn what is expected of them. Provide a reward. If the child completes all the steps without having to be reminded, give your child a reward, such as a special snack treat in their lunch or a special game or activity after school if there is not time in the morning. Once your child is in a good school morning routine, you can phase out the activity schedule.
* Professor Matt Sanders is Director of the Parent and Family Support Centre at the University of Queensland and founder of the Triple P.