The first day of school can be a very overwhelming experience for both children and parents alike. All of the excitement, anticipation, and even worries will occur in almost every child. Whilst you may be going through a mixture of emotions yourself, it is important to try not to pass any of these feelings onto your child, as they are incredibly perceptive. While most children settle into school quickly, it is important not to be concerned if your child takes a bit longer to settle in.
Every child is different and they do things at their pace. Your child will soon settle down and grow to enjoy the routine, friends, and activities. In some instances, you may find that children settle in well in September but may get upset at going back after the Midterm break or Christmas holidays.
This is not unusual. If your child is upset when you bring them to school, it is recommended not to stay in the classroom as this will only upset your child more. Your child will stop crying more quickly if you are not there, as most of the time it is a tactic to convince you to stay, having both is the best of both worlds! Parents often feel the wrench more acutely than the child. Children are highly adaptable and will soon adapt to their new environment and transition smoother than you realize.
Many parents ponder over the ‘correct’ age for children to start school. Children are all different and what is the appropriate age for one child may not be the same for another. You may have last minute worries but you have made your decision in terms of start age and school choice and you have made the best decision you can.
It helps if you can drop and pick up your child from school for the first few days. Many schools have a shorter day for the first week or so to ease the children in. To ease your child’s anxieties, help them make sense of the process. It is important to note that children do not think in terms of time but rather think in terms of routine. For example, try and find out the last activity the children will engage in before going home. Then, tell your child that you will be back to pick him/her up after that activity. For example, it may be useful to tell you tell your child, “Mummy will be back to collect you after story time.” Not only will your child look forward to story time, but he will have the comfort of knowing “when” Mummy will be back.
Top Tips for a Smoother Transition
- When you’re driving past the school or perhaps when you are collecting older siblings from the school the year before, point out that the child will be a big boy or girl just like their sibling and will be going to the school soon.
- Make sure your child knows how to use the toilet properly. Teachers may not have the time or resources to help, and your child may feel embarrassed to ask at times as well. Make sure that children are comfortable with buttons, clothes, tights, zippers, and so on.
- When buying such items as a coat, lunch box or school bag, make sure your child can open and close them with ease. Make sure the drinks container does not leak. Minor mishaps can sometimes trigger more anxieties that you child may not realize he or she is feeling. Velcro shoes and easily zipped up coats can help with this process.
- During the transition, try to keep any of your own scheduling conflicts—whether working late or going out, to a minimum. A child who is usually not sensitive to these types of commitments may become sensitive during this time.
- Place a positive emphasis on your child’s newly formed relationships at school. Invite your child’s new school friends to your home for playdates. Ask him what he’s learned today or questions about his teacher with enthusiasm.
- Spend time with your child each evening if you can. Just a little extra time can make all the difference, read an extra story, go for an extra game of football, and so on.
- Go through your child’s school bag with him. Praise him for the work he brings home and ask him what he’s learning at the moment. If there are any anxieties your child may have regarding any of the work, you will be able to see this here and can make the necessary adjustments, either extra homework practice or just encouragement.
- Go with your own instincts, only you know your child the best. If you feel he may be struggling a bit longer than he should (e.g. if he seems to still have trouble after 3-4 weeks) raise your concerns to his teacher and talk about how you can work through this. Teachers are nearly experts on this, having dealt with it day in and day out.