Today’s guest blogger Sarah Ebner is the author of the Starting School Survival Guide: Everything you need to know when your child starts primary school. She is also the editor of the Times’ School Gate education blog.
As the summer continues there will be many mums and dads, not to mention children, who are both excited and nervous. Why? Because they are all soon to embark on a new stage in their lives – starting school. Starting school is a big step for a child, but it’s similarly (and sometimes more) emotional for their parents. Nothing else demonstrates how big your once-tiny baby has become.
This is true even if your child has been going to nursery. Nurseries are usually smaller than schools, with friendly staff (often called by their first names) who are happy to tell you what your child’s been up to. You get friendly staff at schools too, but it’s usually a much bigger set-up and more formal relationship – it has to be.
You should do your best to help your child to see school as simply the next stage of the nursery they enjoyed so much. So, here are my tips for a happy transition from nursery to primary school.
1) Talk about it.
I can’t stress how useful this can be. You need to “big up big school” and you can do so in many ways, from going to have a look (just take a walk past this summer) to answering any questions your child may have (positively!).
You can also be more subtle. For example, if you’re reading, say “I wonder what kinds of books they’ll have at school, I’m sure they’ve got a lot to choose from”. This can really help to embed the concept of school as a reality in a child’s mind.
I would also recommend specific books such as Topsy and Tim Start School by Jean and Gareth Adams and Kevin Starts School by Liesbet Slegers. These are lovely to share.
Your child might also enjoy playing schools. You could even dress up and then practice register, circle time, etc.
2) Stay calm.
Our children can reflect our moods all too easily. You may be feeling emotional about your little one starting school, but don’t let him or her pick up on that. Try to be positive and excited.
3) Make friends
If you know of other local children starting school with yours, try to get together beforehand. It’s great to see a familiar face on the first day (for you, as well as your child).
4) Remind them of you.
When it comes to the big day, give them something special of yours to keep. In psychology speak, this is called a “transitional object” and it might be a special hankie, a note in the lunchbox or even a small teddy which they can keep in their pocket.
5) Don’t hang around for too long!
Settling in periods differ, and your school might want you to stay at the beginning. But after that, do go, even if your child cries. He will soon stop and have learnt a life lesson, that you can leave, but that you will come back.
However, don’t just disappear. Instead, tell your child and explain when you will return.
I’ve spoken to many teachers and they all say that children are usually fine when their parents have gone! It might be that you could ring the office later, just to check.
6) Buy sensible uniform
You can also make life easier through choosing the right clothes and keeping it simple.
Buy jogging bottoms or skirts with elasticated waists – these are so much easier to put on and take off.
Buy shoes with Velcro rather than straps or more complicated fasteners (such as laces).
Buy coats which are easy to do up – toggles may be simpler than zips or buttons.
Buy tights, unless you’re convinced that your child is perfectly capable of taking them off to go to the toilet – and then putting them back on again.