As a friend of Kids In Adelaide as well as having close to 20 years experience as a Reception teacher, I was so excited to be asked to write a blog about helpful tips for parents of children who are starting out on their exciting school journey!
Hopefully, the following tips help you and your child in the preparations for starting school (please remember these are general tips and may not all apply to you and your child). Beginning school is a very steep learning curve for many children, so the more help you can give them to prepare for school, the easier the transition will be.
My first tip for parents is to practice your deep breathing routine because you will NEED it!!!! 13 years is a LONG time!
On a more serious note –
Tip #1: Settling into school
In the first term of school a child has so much learning to do including new rules, expectations, routines, to put their hand up to talk, what foods in their lunch box they are supposed to eat when, what different bells mean as well as social skills, learning alphabet sounds (phonics), Mathematics skills and the beginning phases of reading and writing. The list is endless.
- Settling in time – it can take some children up to 6 months and sometimes longer to get settled into the school environment. Schools are a new, exciting place and sometimes can be a little daunting, just like any new environment. It takes time for young children to adjust to new situations and school is no exception. They will be exhausted for the first few weeks, as their brains are active from the moment they get to school until the moment you pick them up, with so many things to remember and not a lot of down time. Even those who have attended kindy and child care are exhausted!
- Friendships – it may take a while for your child to make friends, and that is ok. No, it doesn’t mean that your child is alone and has no one to play with. To them they have lots of them (all of the children on the playground). Try to avoid asking your child the question, ‘who did you play with today?’. Sometimes the answer to this will be ‘no one’, due to the fact that they didn’t know a child’s name or there were too many children for them to name. If they did in fact play with no one, that’s ok too. If you have concerns speak to the teacher.
Tip #2: Routines
I cannot stress enough how important routines are for young children.
- Arriving at school – make every effort possible to have your child at school on time, or 10 to 15 minutes early if possible. This will not only allow your child time to complete their ‘morning jobs’ at school (unpack their own school bags etc.) and settle into the school day, but more importantly, it is a vital time for children to bond with their classmates and peers. There is a HUGE difference (often academic and socially) between a child who has had a stress-free morning and a child who is frequently arriving to school late.
- Bed times – once school goes back get into a regular routine of bed times (during holidays, times can change and be more relaxed).
- Homework – in your child’s first year of school they may (some schools may not) be given some ‘homework’ (e.g. sight words, readers, spelling words, Maths activities). Again, try to make this a part of the after school routine. Teachers are very realistic that this cannot be done every day. Children need down time after school.
Tip #3: A quick goodbye is a good goodbye
(especially for children who have separation anxiety). If your child is having a particularly unsettled morning and begins to show signs of a hard goodbye – DO NOT LINGER! Say goodbye and go. 99% of children who are emotional when saying goodbye in the morning are absolutely fine as soon as you walk out the door. I promise!
Tip #4: Positivity is key
Your beliefs often become your child’s beliefs in their early years.
- Schools should be a happy place for your child – 13 years is a long time for a child to be at school, so try to remain positive and upbeat about the school; teacher; his or her friends. The more positive you are, the more positive your child will be. Remember, children are parrots and often have no filter. They will tell their class and teacher the intimate details of your life!!
- Getting the correct information – if you have a concern or query about something at school, make a time with the teacher before or after school and chat directly with them. Don’t make assumptions or discuss with the other parents outside of the classroom at pick up times, as 80% of the time the information gathered is incorrect. Go straight to the source (teacher) and get the correct information first hand.
Tip #5: Empower your child with independence and resilience
Do not be a helicopter parent (a parent who hovers over their child, does everything for them and ‘saves’ them at every opportunity).
- Velcro shoes are yours, your child’s and a teachers’ best friend until your child learns how to tie their own shoelaces.
- Practice dressing themselves – at many schools, swimming lessons will begin in Reception. If your child is unable to dress themselves begin practicing now. (Always pack a spare pair of underwear in your child’s bag for accidents).
- Encourage your child to do things for themselves – from day 1 at school your daughter / son will need to carry out tasks for themselves. Teach your child self help skills such as; how to open their lunch box, unwrap their glad wrap on their sandwich, open a packet (pinch and pull), unpack their bags. Encourage them to do their morning jobs by themselves.
- Resiliency – at school we often talk about small problems and big problems. Small problems (lost something, made a mistake, someone said something unkind etc.) we ‘bounce back’ (get over it) quickly, whereas big problems (feeling sick, getting hurt etc.) we often can need assistance to help us manage the problem. It is amazing how quickly children learn to become quite resilient, if they aren’t already.
- Accepting responsibility for their choices (good and bad) – it is ok to make a mistake (we all make them) and it is also ok to make a bad choice (again we all have at some stage in our lives… often more than once!) In the school environment, these (mistakes and ‘bad’ choices) are often referred to as learning opportunities. It is so important to encourage children to take responsibility for their choices and actions. (This is often when helicopter parents start to hover and save / defend their child). Taking responsibility is a good thing!
Tip #6: Lunch boxes
Don’t be surprised if your child is bringing home nearly a full lunch box for the first few weeks of school. Remember, there are so many new things for your child to see and do, that food may not be on their priority list to begin with. They will eat if they are hungry.
- Pack a variety of foods – (smaller quantities of more food options) e.g. – fresh fruit / vegies (for brain food), crackers, cheese, ham, yoghurt, wraps, ½ sandwich (depending on your child’s appetite). Variety is key.
- Healthy food vs. unhealthy – the food you pack in your child’s lunch box is their energy (fuel) throughout the school day. They use a lot of energy! Choose the healthier alternatives. A child who has a ‘healthy’ diet is able to concentrate for longer periods of time and is therefore more productive throughout the school day.
Tip #7: Trust your child’s teacher
Teachers get to know the children in their class quite quickly! Therefore, give them time to settle in with the class and get to know them, before you overload them with information about your son or daughter (of course medical and special needs are exempt from this, as this should be shared on the first day).
- Academic – often in the first few weeks of school, your child’s teacher will complete a range of informal assessments. From this, they will gather the information they require to help support your child with their learning. Most of the instructional teaching occurs in the classroom, therefore if they bring work home (homework) it should be at a level that can be completed by the child independently with little assistance from you.
- Sharing of information – if a teacher shares information (observations, concerns) with you, DO NOT FREAK OUT! The teacher – parent – student relationship should be an open partnership. If a teacher shares information (positive or concerns) with you, it is because they care and want to work with you and your child. Remember, it is a teacher’s duty of care (job) to do this. In reverse, teachers encourage you to share information with them as well. You know your child best!
Tip #8: What should I buy my child’s teacher as a Christmas present?
Answer: WINE, WINE, WINE!!
Good luck to all of the children starting Reception this year! Have THE BEST time and have fun!