Your child starting school for the first time can feel overwhelming and emotional. You will both be feeling a mixture of emotions such as excitement and sadness, as this might be the first time they will be away for you for so long. Your child starting school doesn’t have to be stressful and upsetting for everyone involved. These 5 Ingredients will help to make your child’s first day of school feel easy as you will both feel well prepared!
Step One- PREPARE
Prepare your child for this new chapter in their life. Talk about what school is like, read books about starting school, tell them a story about starting school, talk to them about your memories from school. You can also make a story with them about starting school and what they are looking forward to.
A great way for you to feel less anxious about your child starting school is to speak to the school ahead of time and ask them how they’ll manage it if your child becomes upset when it’s time for you to leave. What will they do to help comfort your child? Will they ring you after a certain amount of time if your child isn’t able to calm down?
If your child has a friend starting school as well, organise to meet them out the front of school on the first day so they walk in together.
Step Two: PRACTICE
Practice all the steps in your child’s school routine from laying out their uniform of clothes to wear the night before, to walking into the school and saying goodbye.
Practice packing their school bag, what things they’ll need to put in it. Get them dressed in their uniform and drive or walking to school.
Practice walking up to the gate with their backpack on and practice saying goodbye to them and walking away. If the school has a transition day you can practice you actually saying goodbye and leaving from classroom.
Practice what you’ll say to each other when it’s time to leave and what they can do if they feel sad (e.g. Go to the teacher, seek out a friend, and get their special toy out of their bag to play with).
Step Three- MAKE IT EXCITING
Make starting school as fun as possible to get your child excited about it. Go shopping for new school shoes or school clothes together. Make a special treat or snack together the day before for them to pack for their lunch. Let them pick out a new school bag. Have them pick a special toy or comfort object to pack in their bag to take with them. If they have friend’s starting school with them talk to them about all the exciting games they can play together at school.
Step Four- HAVE A SCRIPT TO SAY
Work out ahead of time a script to say to your child when it’s time for you to leave. If they become upset they’ll say anything they can to get you into a conversation so you’ll stay that little bit longer. They’ll start to say things like “just stay for one more minute” “I’ll be ok if you stay for just one more minute”. That one minute will NEVER be enough! Repeat your script over and over as needed in response to their attempts at keeping you there.
Your script might be something like this “I love you and hope you have such a fun day at school today. I can’t wait to see you in a few hours when I come to pick you up after school”.
It’s important to reiterate that you will be coming back to get them. You also want to give the message that school will be fun and they will be ok.
Step Five- TRUST
This last step is for you as the parent to trust that your child will be OK when you walk away and leave them. Trust that your child has the emotional resilience to be OK and calm themselves down, even though they will initially be upset for you to leave them. Trust that the school will take care of them and call you if your child is really upset and needs you to come back.
Calm your own emotions and trust that it will all be OK even though it’s an uncomfortable feeling to walk away from them when they are upset and don’t want you to go. The majority of children will be OK and stop crying in under a minute. Walking away from your child when they are upset won’t have any negative impact on their attachment to you and the loving relationship that you have. This connection is strong enough to with stand the discomfort of you walking away from them and leaving them when they are upset.
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