Starting School for the First Time
By Melissa Hood, Sept 2007
When your child starts big school for the first time everything may go very smoothly or there may be teething problems. You might be taken by surprise by upsets if your child settled happily at nursery school. Here are some tips for helping your child settle in well at school:
- Familiarise your child with the physical environment of the school. Visit it often, even if only to look at the outside. If it's too far to visit often take a picture and hang it somewhere accessible. Refer to your school often but acknowledge that it might not feel like your school quite yet. Hopefully the children will have been to an induction day. Make sure they know where their classroom is, where the loos are, the playground, and the lunch area.
- If you have an older child in the school don't assume that your younger one will know where everything is that's relevant to him. Make sure your little one understands when he will see his older sibling at school. They may be in separate playgrounds and he might have missed the point about different classes. Spell everything out.
- Talk through any concerns you think your child may have. Typical anxieties are: will I make friends, will the teacher like me, will I like the teacher, will I be able to do what's asked of me, will I be able to find my way around. Many children are concerned by school loos which are very different from those at home and they may find the lunch arrangements daunting. Talk them through what's required and practice in role play using the loos and queuing for lunch if that's what they do. There's a good book which goes through the school day - Starting School by the Ahllbergs. Play schools at home for a few days.
- Don't be afraid to talk about your child's anxieties - it won't cause them to feel anxious but will help alleviate their worries if you know what's going on for them and are not afraid to talk about it. This normalises things for the children. Once they've started school listen to any concerns they have and empathise - do not minimise their concerns and do not say 'You'll be fine, don't worry'. Instead you can say 'right now you're worried about making friends. Maybe we can talk about some ways to start conversations or to start a game.'
- Get used to the uniform if there is one. Put it on and make sure your child can get in and out of it quickly by herself. Practice this. Children are often embarrassed if they can't get changed quickly enough and get chivvied by the teacher and sometimes teased by the other children.If you can meet up with some other children in your child's class during the holidays so that there are some familiar faces when they start.
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