Preparing for the First Day of School – for kids and parents

Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is upon us. Soon children will be thinking about heading back to school for another year of learning and fun.

For many parents and families, 2015 marks the start of a new journey into the education system, with thousands of children experiencing their first day of school this month.

It can be an exciting and emotional time for both the children and their families, so here are some tips for starting school to help the transition go more smoothly:

Rushed = stressed

In order to help create a calmer, more peaceful morning, make sure you leave plenty of time to get ready and get there on time. Ensure your child has gone to bed at a reasonable hour the night before so that they are suitably rested for their big day.

Start the day with a relaxed and healthy breakfast to give your child the fuel they need to face all of the new things they will be experiencing.

Get everyone out of bed early enough so that if there are slight hiccups, it won’t throw the whole morning into chaos.

Have a system – Develop a routine to help keep on track in the mornings and afternoons.

Some children respond really well to a visual schedule or to-do list to help them remember all the things they need to do to get ready in the morning. This helps children to start to learn self-management skills and helps parents by giving them something to refer their children to. Parents can assist by asking “what else do you need to do to get ready? Let’s have a look at your list”

Start to develop a routine in the afternoons, too. Teach your child how to unpack their school bag and where to put their lunchbox at the end of the day. Find a system for where they should put their school uniform and shoes so that these things are easily located when they need them next

Trial run

For younger children, practising their skills to be independent is important in preparation for school. Practise packing and unpacking their school bag – most schools will have a routine about where children place their bags, their lunch or their drink bottles in the morning. Before the term starts, make sure any drink bottles or lunchboxes are easily accessed and opened by little hands without any help. Ensure that your child can perform basic self-care activities like using the toilet, unfastening and doing up any clothing when going to the bathroom, and washing and drying their own hands. The more practice your child gets at home with these tasks, the easier it will be for them to perform them when needed in a new situation at school.

Separation anxiety

Your child may experience some separation anxiety, particularly if they haven’t spent many long days away from you.

If they have worries, listen. Let them express their fears. Acknowledge and validate for them that changes can be difficult but that you believe that they are able to meet the challenge.

Be positive about their new school. Focus on all the great things your child will be doing and how grown up they are for being able to go to school.

Talk about what will help them feel brave. This might include helping your child develop some positive self talk which can be reassuring throughout the school day.

Kids with worries like to know what will be happening for them each day so try to have a predictable and consistent approach. Discuss the specifics of what will be happening, such as where you will meet them after school.

It can also be helpful to let your child’s teacher know that your child is feeling anxious. Early primary school teachers are experienced and aware of how to reassure both children and parents.

Take care of yourself

Acknowledge your own feelings as a parent. It’s normal for parents to feel emotional about their child moving on to a new phase of life. The start of school really marks the end of their babyhood.

Once you’ve dropped your child off at school, allow yourself to experience those emotions, whether it’s having a little cry or a quiet moment or a chat with a friend. A little bit of grief is normal for any sort of change in life.

Or you might also feel excited and happy to have reached this new stage of parenting. It may be exciting that you now have time to explore other activities for yourself while your child is at school.

Good luck to all the children and parents who are experiencing their first day of school in 2015. May it be the start of a wonderful journey of learning!

Times of change and transition can be challenging but it is possible to develop the right tools and skills to get through. If you would like support for your child or for yourself as a parent, please contact our team at Attuned Psychology.

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