Preparing your child for the first day of school
The first day at school can
be tough for children and parents, but with a little preparation
it'll be easier for you to cope.
"They have to be toilet trained and
know how to undress and dress themself for PE. So ask yourself
whether your child is ready to do those things. If not, it's a
good idea to teach them those skills.
"They will probably be quite nervous about starting. But you
can't always tell who will settle and who won't. A sociable child
won't necessarily fit into school straight away.
"The idea of 'big school' can be very appealing for children,
but it can also be quite frightening. It's useful to let your child
know what's coming by reading them books about starting school and
talking to them about it. That will reduce their anxiety."
Whatever your child's reaction to school, remember that the
teachers will have seen it all before. Schools are familiar with
children who are worried in their first few weeks.
"They usually have a system to help children adjust," says
Dr Spungin. "Some schools have a 'buddy' system where children are
paired with those already established at the school. Or some
children might attend for half a day."
Find out what system your school uses, and then help
prepare your child by letting them know what to expect. Some
schools also have open days where children can meet the
teacher and see their classroom before they start. This helps
them get used to their new environment.
The first weeks of school
School isn't easy for everyone. During the first few weeks of
school it's essential to keep
communicating with your child and take care to notice signs
that things aren't going well.
"It's not uncommon for a child in their second week not
to want to go to school. They'll say, 'I've been to school now
and I don't need to go back'," says Dr Spungin. "The excitement of
the first week has worn off, but they still feel nervous."
Dr Spungin says you can watch your child's behaviour as well as
listen to what they say. "Look at your child's behaviour in the
morning when you get ready for school. Are they bright
and lively, or dawdling? How do they react when you
ask them how their day was?"
Keep your questions simple. "It's difficult for a five-year-old
to answer a question about whether they're happy at
school. You'll get more information if you ask specific
questions, such as who did you play with? Who did you eat
lunch with? Are there any naughty boys or girls in your class? Your
child might not even know what the word 'bully' means."
Talk to the teacher
Make the teacher the first person you contact if you think
something is wrong. "Start by passing on what your child said,"
says Dr Spungin. "For example, point out that your child started
off by really enjoying school, but is now nervous and has told you
that somebody kicked him. Or mention that your child says he
doesn't have any friends. The teacher will know whether that's the
case or not."
It can be hard to cope when you see your child lining up in the
playground for the first time. This is normal, says Dr Spungin.
"It's your child's first real step to independence. It'll be a
world that they know and you don't. When your child settles
down and enjoys school, it's a tribute to how well you have raised
him or her, so try to look at it positively."