Just a few short days until your little one’s first day at school?
Worried they’re not emotionally prepared? Don’t fret – there’s lots you can do to make your child’s big day as painless as possible…
1. Let them know what to expect. Find some time to sit and snuggle, and explain the routine of getting ready for school, dropping them off, what they’ll do during the school day and how you’ll pick them up again. There are some great books that can help you do that (try the library), and you can TELL THEM FASCINATING ANECDOTES about your own early days at school – with photos if you have them!
2. Don’t oversell. It’s tempting to focus on the fun, friends and excitement of ‘big school’, but you also need to explain gently that they may well get tired, they may get worried about things that they haven’t encountered before. Make sure they know that they can tell their teacher about anything that’s worrying or upsetting them, and work in a little conversation about sharing – generally the biggest source of friction at this age!
3. Play school. Why not set up a PRETEND SCHOOL at home to introduce your little one to some school routines? Rope in friends, family and teddies and practice registration, asking to go to the loo, circle time – you get the picture! Sounds like fun…
4. Do a trial run. If possible, do a DUMMY RUN of the journey to school, using the same mode of transport. When you get to school, walk around the perimeter and talk about what you see. You could even take some photos to show and tell friends and family when you get home.
5. Keep it calm. It’s an exciting day for sure, but try to maintain a calm atmosphere so your little one doesn’t get overwrought. Get up a little earlier so you have some time in hand, and aim to introduce your school routine from the word go. Make sure the rest of the family is also briefed to keep it calm.
6. Take some comfort. Some children find it comforting to take a little reminder of home with them on their first day. Play it by ear – you’ll know if this works for your child or not. But teachers are used to small people bringing teddies or other comforting items and will of course understand.
7. Don’t linger. When you take your child into the classroom, stay long enough to make sure they’ve found their coat hook, know where the loo is, give them a quick kiss – then leave! This will give your child more time to settle down and focus on what’s going on around them.
8. Cry later. Be brave and act normally until after you’ve left them. Because, of course, it’ll upset them if you cry in the classroom – especially if you’ve spent the last week telling them how great school is! You could even invite some other parents for a coffee, so you can bond over a communal sniffle…
9. Listen first, ask later. Of course, you’ll want to know all about your child’s day at school – and of course, the response to ‘What did you do today?’ will elicit no more than a ‘dunno’, or ‘nuffink’! Children can get defensive if you start quizzing them as soon as you pick them up, so say hello and listen to them first – you may well get the whole story without asking. If not, try to ask simple, direct questions such as ‘Who did you play with today?’ and ‘What was fun at school today?’.
10. Schedule some down time. If you can, let your child have a rest and a cuddle when they get home. It’s important they have a chance to unwind, and this could become a comforting routine that incorporates favourite stories, quiet games and confidence sharing.
11. Watch out for second week blues. After the excitement of the first few days, the second week of school can be quite difficult for small children. They may still be nervous and the novelty will be wearing off! So keep an eye out for any reluctance, dawdling or tummy aches in the morning – and if it doesn’t disappear after a few days, try to get to the bottom of it…
12. Ask the right questions. If you’re worried about your child, then ask them gently if there’s anything or anybody they don’t like at school, and see what comes out – remembering that they probably don’t understand concepts like bullying and teasing. Then have a quiet word with their class teacher to sort it out.
13. Make a scrapbook. A great way of making your small person feel special is to create a scrapbook of this year’s pictures and projects. Don’t forget to take photos as well, and make the process an important part of their day/week. As well as reminding them of their achievements, it will be a wonderful keepsake in years to come!
So, good luck over the next few weeks as your children start this new phase in their lives. And remember to be proud of yourself for everything you’ve done to get them this far!
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