The only thing more daunting than walking your child into their classroom on the first day of ‘big school’ is the lead up.
How do you say goodbye with as few tears as possible?
How do you make sure they find an instant best friend that will be a good influence on them?
Which shoes will last the school year?
And, seriously, what do you put in the lunch box that they will actually eat?
As part of their Back to School Health Clinic1, Queensland University of Technology offered free assessments and advice to school children and their parents.
Their experts have shared some tips on preparing your child for the big leap into school life:
Overcoming the starting school anxieties - advice from Dr Fotina Hardy, Social Work Clinic Coordinator, and Glenn Howard, Educational and Developmental Psychology Clinic Coordinator
Starting school brings with it many competing emotions for parents and their children. It is exciting yet can also be a daunting new transition. Children are easily affected by their parents’ emotions and actions. That’s why it is important to recognise and normalise your own feelings and theirs, and focus on the positives and opportunities.
Focus on the positives for your child:
- making new friends
- learning new skills
- growing up
- exciting playgrounds
- special uniform
Develop a plan for a positive drop off:
- A goodbye ritual or routine such as a high five, thumbs up, goodbye hug or special saying.
- Always say goodbye and reassure them about when you’ll be back.
- Avoid lengthy goodbyes as they may increase separation distress.
- Talk positively and enthusiastically about what they will be doing when they are away from you, for example: “I look forward to hearing about what you’re going to do today, sounds like you’re going to have some fun.”
Modelling strategies to your child to cope with worries is important to build resilience:
- Sometimes people are nervous about starting school, but we can take some deep breaths and think about all the fun things we’re going to do today.
- Having butterflies in our tummy can help us to fly through a new adventure.
- Use a “handy hand2” to recall five things they can do if they are worried (take deep breaths, use helpful/positive thoughts, think of things they can do to reward themselves for doing something tough, remember feeling worried won’t last forever, have a celebration/reward planned for after school).
- Use a “handy hand” to remember five trusted people they can talk to if they’re worried.
It’s also important for parents to take care of themselves and use their own strategies and social supports to celebrate the transition.
Remember that children’s development varies from child to child and that they will develop rapidly over the school years. Every child is different and will move at a different pace in how they settle, interact and learn.
Schools are great places to develop a range of academic, social emotional, independence, resilience, artistic, sporting, and musical skills in scaffolded and supported ways. There is something for everyone. Supporting them by normalising any fears, anxieties or uncertainty is really important, as is being there and listening