This is a series of occasional blogs by BESA members and is part of their paid membership service. These views are not necessarily those of BESA and a published blog does not constitute an endorsement.
With September now upon us there’s a new intake of excitable four and five-year-olds about to start school for the very first time. Going to ‘Big School’ is a significant milestone for every child, it can be exciting, nerve-wracking and worrying but one thing it definitely will be is very different. In reality, it means adjusting to new routines, new teachers, new environment and making new friends which can all be exhausting and take time to settle into.
So, if you’re a parent of a child starting school there are lots of ways you can support your child during this time to help everything go as smoothly as possible. Here are a few suggestions:
Before their first day arrives….one of the best ways to help your child settle into their new routine is to talk to them about what the school day will be like, talk about the school and maybe familiarise them with pictures of their teacher and classroom.
Independence…the most helpful skills you can practice with your child are everyday skills such as dressing, eating, changing for PE, going to the toilet alone, washing hands. If they can do these for themselves before they start school they have more energy to focus on all the other learning that is going on in the classroom.
Be prepared…school mornings are usually busy with lots going on, so be organised and get school bags and lunches ready the night before. It also means you are available to talk to your child about any worries or concerns they have and it will be less frantic trying to make it to school on time. If you are calm, your child is more likely to be calm.
Emotional…it can be a very emotional time as a parent. It’s a very proud time but there’s also a feeling of loss as your once toddler walks into school in their uniform for the very first time. A parenting milestone! Expect to be emotional but try to keep feelings under control until you leave the school gates. If your child sees you upset it will add to their anxiety.
Be enthusiastic…go large! Enjoy your child’s achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Celebrate whatever they bring home, artwork, craft models, reward stickers and anything they show or tell you from their day at school. Children at this age thrive and grow on praise, so don’t hold back.
Listen to your child…whilst reception age children are often full of questions They may find it difficult to articulate their feelings and any worries they may have about school. Try to listen and look for signs that they might feel stressed such as tearfulness, bedwetting, getting angry or upset easily.
Tired…they will be! Be prepared for your child to be exhausted at the end of the school day. It’s a big adjustment and they will have more rules and boundaries to follow, with greater expectations of them. They won’t have much energy left in the tank when you pick them up. They may not want to talk about their day at all and may need refuelling on the way home…be sure to avoid a ‘hungry’ meltdown.
Talk to the teacher…if you have any concerns or worries talk to your child’s teacher. They are busy people but would rather you share your concerns, any changes at home or events which might impact on your child’s experience at school. Communication can be very reassuring so don’t be afraid to talk to the school. Just make sure you find an appropriate time.
Get involved…if you have time to get involved with the school, do. It’s a chance to meet other like-minded parents and feel connected to the school. It can be very rewarding to spend time in your child’s class, listening to readers or helping on a school trip. It gives an insight into what their day entails and most children are very proud to show off their Mum or Dad in the class.
Share positive feedback…teachers are human and a few positive words, or even a simple thank-you, goes a very long way. It’s easy to take worries and concerns to school but take the time to drop an email or pass on a compliment about a concert or event that you enjoyed.
Children are school age for a relatively short time so be sure to make the most of it! It’s a time of immense learning, growing, developing language, making friends, milestones and achievements. Your child’s very first day at school is a special one. Be a proud parent and enjoy the moment.
Good luck to all Reception starters…you are going to love it!