A new school year in Australia is about to commence. Whilst the very first day of school is a big deal for young students, it is also a significant day for their families and teachers. I feel sure that both parents and teachers would agree how important it is for a young child to experience a calm and positive experience on their first day of school. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case.
My experience as a teacher of children in their first year of school has shown that an upset child on the first day, can lead to them becoming upset on the second day, and then again on the third day…..and so on. One upset child can inadvertently start a ‘chain reaction’. If a child witnesses another child becoming very upset, they can become upset too, as will another child, and so on. Becoming upset each morning has the potential to disrupt a student’s start to school, so it is worth planning in advance and striving to ensure your child has a calm and positive transition to school.
Most upset students settle quickly once their parent has left the classroom. Over the years I have invited quite a few parents to stay a while (without their child knowing), and peek in through the classroom window to see for themselves how quickly their child settled after they left. This strategy has reassured many anxious parents.
As a mother, I understand how daunting it can feel for parents as their child’s first day of school approaches. However as a teacher I understand how important it is for each child to experience a calm and positive start to their schooling. There is sure to be a few tears on the first day of school, from both students and parents, however if those parents who are feeling distressed can manage to hide their feelings from their child as they escort them to school and into the classroom, this will greatly help their child not to become overly upset during their first days of school.
The suggestions I have listed below assisted me to prepare my own children for their transition to school. I have also shared them with many parents, most of whom found them to be helpful.
TIPS FOR PREPARING YOUR PRESCHOOLER FOR A POSITIVE START TO SCHOOL:
- Label your child’s school bag, their lunch box, their drink bottle, their hat, their jumper and any other item that they will be using during the school day. If your child does not recognise their name, try using labels that are coloured and/or have a picture on them. Show and explain the labels to your child.
- Provide opportunities for your child to practise using their lunch box, and any containers or wrapping they will be using at school, in preparation for their first day. It is important for them to be able to unscrew lids, unwrap food in plastic wrappers and manage any zips on their lunchbox. Children also need to know how to use their drink bottle correctly. I also found it helpful to explain to my own children which food was for their play lunch, and which was for their lunch. I also suggest resisting the urge to pack too much food for your child to eat at school.
- Visit your child’s school ground several times before their first day. Show your child where you will be dropping them off, and where you will be meeting them after school. If your child is attending Before or After School Care, ensure they are aware of where they will meet the carers, so they feel prepared. I also suggest teaching your child how to use the drinking taps at school properly during your visits, so they feel confident in using them when they start school.
- Ensure your child has early nights, and some down time after school. They will most likely feel very tired after a full day, and even the most easy going child, can become overwhelmed and emotional during the first term of school, if they have too many scheduled activities outside of school. Also, most years I found that by about week 3 or 4, many students have decided that they have had enough of school and want to go back to preschool. The novelty of starting school has worn off! Encourage your child through this phase, and it will soon pass.
- Provide your child with opportunities to learn how to open, close, pack and carry their school bag.
Your child will only ever have one first day of school, so be sure to take lots of photos and enjoy this important milestone!
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