- Your child’s mindset about school, whether they are returning or a beginner is the most important. Talk with your child in a positive and cheerful way about starting school. Notice any responses they give you when you talk about school and monitor what your child says. Are they enthusiastic or anxious? Talking positively about school can put them in the right mindset for all kinds of learning, not just academic. Having the right mindset is not only important for your child, but also for you. If they see you are anxious, they will be too. If you are hyped up and positive about it, so will they be.
2. Books are a great way for your child to become familiar with the idea of school. Spend time reading to your child regularly during the days before school starts, and after. Routine is also greatly important with schooling.
3. Address challenging behaviour with understanding. This a tough one but also very important. Challenging behaviour is usually a way your child is trying to tell you something. Listen to them and address any underlying issues – help them change that negative mindset into a positive one. If you have a challenging child, please be patient with them. The behaviour won’t change overnight.
4. Teach your child self-calming strategies. Children need to know how to calm themselves appropriately when they are upset and you aren’t around to help them. Use age-appropriate activities, which are soothing, for example, cuddling a soft toy, squeezing a stress ball, having a drink of water or learning to wipe their own eyes with a tissue. It’s also a good idea to discuss your child’s preferred calming activities with the new teacher.
5. Children need to be able to do what the teacher asks – follow rules, and interact appropriately with both adults and other children. One of the most effective ways to encourage this kind of positive behaviour is by rewarding it. When your child behaves in a positive way toward their learning make sure you tell them. Show affection and positive emotions, for example, big smiles, hugs or high fives; or use tangible rewards such as a special game with Mum or Dad.
6. Routine, routine, routine. We all do this in everyday life. When it comes to schooling, its as equally important as the others. Set up routines which help your child go to sleep and wake in time to get ready for school. Adequate sleep is vital for school – it’s essential for all aspects of the learning process. The early days of school can also be exhausting, so good sleep habits are key and should be started in the weeks before school.
7. Teach them to take care of their things. As with toileting, children will need to be able to care for their school things. Help your child practice packing and unpacking the backpack they will be using for school. Make sure that your child’s backpack can be easily recognised as theirs. Practice eating recess and lunch foods out of their school lunch box, letting them open any packaging that will be used for food at school.
8. Practice playing games where people have to raise their hand to say something and wait for their turn to participate. This helps your child to understand that everyone gets a chance to talk every time in the classroom, and, that they may not always be the first chosen. It also teaches good listening skills.
9. Create a special goodbye routine. It’s really important your child understands that you will return at the end of the day. Being able to say goodbye without tears and tantrums helps the day get off to a good start – some kids will walk away without a backwards glance, while others will run screaming from the building and rugby tackle you by the gate to prevent you leaving.
You understand your child best and what works for them, but suggestions include handing them to the teacher, saying goodbye and leaving without too much fanfare. This is much more difficult for you, than it is for them, especially if its your child’s first day.
Over to you: I hope you find these strategies helpful. Please pass on if you think they will help anyone else.