Starting school for the first time is a major milestone for children and parents. Here, family relationship expert, Dr Karen Phillip, shares her tips to make the transition to school easy and fun.
- Have a few trial lunch days where you pack the child a lunch box at home (if not done at preschool) and ensure they eat correct little lunch first then big lunch, this is particularly important if all food is in one lunch box. And ensure they can unwrap their lunch.
- Shop together for stationery, shoes and uniform. Check the school equipment list and make the shopping list together to help make it fun and exciting. Shop ahead to avoid last minute rushing and unnecessary stress. Getting their school uniform will allow the child to feel big. Ensure they are comfortable in their new uniform look, have them choose their lunch box and drink bottle or backpack. This allows them to have ownership of the school experience.
- Children need to be aware of the time frame of preparing for school each morning. Much conflict erupts of a morning between parents and children when the children are slow to become ready for school or bus. Set clear expectations and consequences so they understand and remember that children have no concept of time under about 7 years old so telling them you have half an hour to get ready will mean nothing to them.
- Use a calendar or planner to show your child what is happening each day. This will help reduce any anxiety or confusion and get them ready for the day/week ahead. Get them involved in the planning - even if they can't write yet, they can use a stamp or draw a picture or symbol. I like Frixion pens and stamps for this as they are erasable and so if plans change, they can be rubbed out to avoid any confusion.
- Separating from the child when they commence school. Mum standing at the gate crying will only tell the child that this school is scary and bad. Parents hugging their child emotionally and telling them how much they will miss their child will make the child sad and anxious. First day, meet the teacher, show your child around, smile and go. Drop off and leave with a smile, perhaps wearing a large dark pair of sunglasses to hide any tears or emotion.
- Take the child to the school and show them around. Many children are scared they do not know where their classroom is or where the toilets are. Show them the Kindy area and toilets.
- Label everything - all clothing, bags, lunch box and drink bottle. If the child puts their item down and other children's items are the same, a child can become distressed thinking the other child has taken their item or it's lost. Labelling all items will prevent this and assist the teacher to sort out correct belongings. Place their first name and first letter of surname at least.
Dr Karen Phillip is a leading relationship and parenting expert highly skilled at working with families who are experiencing problems with conflict and child behaviours and is a published author and speaker.