By Dr Kathy Murray
Education specialist, Author, Public Speaker, Coach and Mentor.
I remember taking my child to school on the very first day. I was a teacher and had been on the other side of first day drop offs many times. But as I helped my daughter settle in and started to get ready to go, tears filled my eyes. It seemed like the end of an era. Now she was at school, and I wouldn’t see her for 5 long hours, 5 days a week.
Fortunately, I had prepared her well. So,although it was bittersweet, I was comforted to see her sitting happily at her desk, waving goodbye as I left.
Preparing your child well before the first day of school is important because change can be scary—for children and adults alike! Right now, over the summer holidays, is the perfect time to start preparing your child for the transition ahead.
There are some practical steps you can take to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
Here are my top 10 tips that I’ve learned over the past 30 years:
- Keep an easy-going attitude.Try not to place too much focus on the first day. If you are feeling stressed and anxious, your child will pick up on that. Tell your child that the first day is exciting, but there are many more days to come and look forward to as well.
- Buy shoes with Velcro, not laces.Taking this small step means that you and your child have one less thing to worry about. Laces come undone, and children at this age are still learning how to tie them on their own. Velcro will ensure that they are all set for the day.
- Walk around the school over the holidays. Taking a tour of the building will acclimate your child to the new environment with you by his or her side. Facing a new setting amid the bustle of the first day can be overwhelming. Your child will feel more confident coming in with a general familiarity of where things are.
- Talk through the day. Give your child an idea of what the first day will be like. See if you can speak with the teacher or a school administrator beforehand to clarify what the typical routine will look like with activities such as mat time, play, morning tea, and so on. This will help your child understand what to expect beforehand, which will calm any anxiety or uncertainty they are feeling.
- Give your child a special object to carry through the day. Consider offering your child a special hanky, shell, or other small object of yours that they can take with them wherever they go. This memento will reassure your child as a reminder that you care for them and are thinking of them even when you’re apart.
- Account for the heat. With the high temperatures at this time of year, children will get tired and irritable more quickly. Try to be understanding and take steps to help your child relax, recharge, and cool off inside. Minimize outside school sports during this season to help with managing their fatigue.
- Have a plan for lunchtime. Your child will be eating with less supervision and away from the home environment. You can help them feel prepared by going on picnics and practice opening lunch boxes with them before school starts.
- For boys, have dads go with them to learn how to use a urinal. Boys may not be used to these facilities and might become confused or nervous when navigating a new situation at school. During the holidays, Dads can help their son to navigate public toilet facilities.
- Give them a day off if they need it.We all need a break from time to time, and your child is no different. Facing all the change—new people, new activities, and new environments—can be exhausting. It’s fine to let your child know that, if necessary, he or she can take a day off to regroup.
- Don’t leave without saying goodbye.On that first day, once you’ve gotten your child all settled in, make sure he or she knows when you depart. If you go without making it clear, it will be startling and upsetting once they realize you’re gone. Instead, let your child know when the time has come for you to go and end with encouraging words, such as how excited you are to hear about the day goes when you pick them up this afternoon.
As your child’s parent or caretaker, you play a large role in setting the tone for the school year. Change is never easy, but making preparations in advance and setting expectations early will help your child feel ready, approaching school with positivity and excitement. With these 10 tips in mind, your child will start the year off on a great foot!
Where to from here?
If you want to know more strategies and different ways to support your child then I’d love to connect with you! Contact me through my website www.trainingandedservices.com.au OR email [email protected] OR join me on our Facebook page – Training and Education Services with Dr Kathy Murray.
Dr Kathy Murray has worked with children and families for 34 years as a teacher, researcher and university lecturer. Kathy now works casually with preservice teachers at Central Queensland University in Noosa, while supporting parents, early childhood educators, leaders and organizations through her consultancy business, Training and Education Services.