So it’s that time of year when your wee ones take the step in to the big wide world of school.
Like lots of other children starting nursery, Reception or P1. Ivy is staring her P1 class and this is her first step into formal education.
For myself and I’m sure many other parents it brought up lots of feelings and questions! There is that worry, does my child know enough? Does it matter if the can’t write their name or count to 10? Will they make friends?
These are all valid concerns and all children enter ‘big school’ with different knowledge and experiences. For Ivy she talks about becoming a ‘big girl’ and she is excited to start nursery, but from my experience working within schools it can take a while for children to settle into the new routine. But don’t worry, all the staff working in a school are aware of this. The skills of the teachers and teaching assistants is to support your child, help them to settle and identify any support they may need.
How can you help your child?
Starting school is one of the major transitions children experience. We have to provide emotional support to help them deal with this transition. Let your child know that it is ok to be worried and scared. These are all valid feelings to such a big change.
Helping them understand that you are aware of this will be a comfort to them and that you are there to face the new challenges alongside them. Some time before the big day start to talk about school. Maybe even do a walk to see their new school or show them pictures of their classroom, playground and lunch hall off the website. This will give them a feel of where they are going and it won’t be so overwhelming when they start.
Try to ask your child what they are most excited about, talking about it in a positive light will help them to get excited and embrace the changes. There will be lots of new and exciting things for them to experience and it’s important for them to know they can feel excited and nervous. We are their to support our children to handle the feelings that starting school brings.
Do we need to prepare children for school? This is the time to encourage your child to become more independent. Giving them the chance to have a go and make mistakes creates resilient children. Learning that we all get things wrong and mistakes can be made are key skills for life and education.
Before starting school make sure that they can do simple self help tasks. Encourage to put their own shoes on. (In my experience buying shoes with Velcro straps or slip on aids this) putting on their own coat, dealing with zips and buttons. Going to the toilet and washing their hands independently and using a knife and fork on their own. You can also help your child to know that it’s ok to ask for help. We all know that accidents can happen and letting their teacher know that they have hurt themselves or that they need a drink as they need to learn to communicate to their teacher any needs they may have.
At school children will come across their own name all the time. On their peg, their drawer on art work, encourage your child to recognise their own name, this will also help to find that stray school jumper or cardigan. Show them their name written down and typed up. Talk about each letter and let them have a go at writing it down.
Give your child the opportunity to make their own decisions. For example let them choose their own clothes. Ask them what they want to eat, what activities they want to do. This will empower them to make their choices and be a helpful start when joining a new class.
Let your child help you around the house. Help to tidy, put washing away and prep the dinner. This will encourage the skills needed to listen and follow simple instructions. It will help encourage problem solving and self sufficiency which are skills that not only help in starting school but on into adulthood also.
Children will be around lots of new peers at school, and part of starting school is about getting along well with their new friends. If I have learnt anything from raising 2 young children during lockdown is that when it comes to meeting new people it can be overwhelming. I have tried to encourage Ivy to talk to other children at the park and I invite her friends over for play dates. Teaching your child the skills to make friends and how to take turns and share is important for starting school.
Children have to learn lots of new skills at school one of the toughest ones is how to listen without interrupting! Teach your child to listen and when asked a question to reply. I do this by sitting down with Ivy and talking about our day. Encouraging her to listen to me and answer questions. Having discussions at the dinner table or in the car can also promote this.
Try not to worry about your child starting school. They will be ok, and it’s normal for your child to have a few tears or become clingy. Their behaviour may change for a few weeks and you may see more tantrums or very tired. It is a big transition for them and it will get easier as they settle into their new class.
Throughout the school year you can help your child by getting access to school rules/policies, attend any parent meetings so you can get to know how your child is doing and try to familiarise yourself with the topics your child is learning. These are just some small ways to show your child your taking this journey together.
It is also a big transition for you but try to stay strong. Send them in with a smile and wave as this will help to settle them and feel comfortable.
I wish all the children starting school this year and the parents the best of luck and don’t forget that first day of school photo.