Starting school for the first time is certainly a big event in the life of a young child but it can be an even bigger event in the lives of the parents. A child starting school is a big change for any parent and it is normal to have a range of feelings such as excitement that your child is making a big step towards growing up as well as a sense of loss that they are moving away from you. The site of your little baby in a school uniform, shirt and tie can bring a tear to your eye. As a parent, you want to make it as easy as possible for your child when starting school for the first time. Here are some ideas on how to prepare.
Talk to your child about starting school well in advance. If you are feeling anxious, try and not let this come through to your child. Rather be positive and matter of fact about what you say – starting school is just another happy event in their life, which will give her opportunities to play with new children and to learn new things.
Books are a great way of talking to children about starting school – there are loads of books in the shops which tell the story of a child starting school and all that happened in simple language.
You can make a trip with your child to the school building so that they know exactly where they will be going. Point out things that will help them to look forward to school, for example, the play areas, paintings that can be seen through windows and so on.
Get your child involved in buying the requirements for school. Make the trip to buy the uniform a special day together. Use that day to also buy the school bag, pencil case, pencils etc. so that your child can feel enthusiastic about starting school and involved in choosing the items needed.
For a few weeks prior to school, it is also helpful to get into a ‘school like’ routine. Try getting up a little earlier and even introducing a regular table activity, such as drawing in the mornings, so your child is beginning to get used to a routine.
If bedtime has been relaxed for the summer months, then you should start to get a bedtime routine in place for a few weeks prior to starting school.
On the first day, most children are excited about the prospect of going to school and though some might be a little anxious especially when you leave, they generally settle in quickly after that. Schools usually have very good procedures about helping children settle into the first day at school – remember they are used to supporting the parents as much as the children on the first day!
After school do not have too much planned as your child is likely to be tired (especially for the first few days) as they adjust to the new routine. Have some playtime with them, take an interest in what happened in school and give them space to chat, but don’t pressure them to say too much.
Try to organize that one of the parents drops the child off and collects them for the first few weeks. This will help you to get to know the environment, teacher and other children in the class. It will also be very helpful to your child to know that they have the security of one of their parents dropping and collecting them while they get settled in.
Make sure your child can use the toilet alone and feels confident about that.
Make sure that your child can put on their coat easily. If they will have to change shoes at school, get shoes that are easily opened and closed.
Get a good lunchbox for your child to protect their lunch and also their books. Be careful to pick a lunchbox that completely seals when closed but is easy for the child to open/close.
When choosing the schoolbag, try to get one that has a separate pocket for their drink. A drink leaking inside their bag could ruin their books!
If your child is anxious about the time that you will collecting him/her, try to find out what the teacher does at the end of each day (e.g. reads a story) and then you can tell them you will be collecting them after the teacher reads the story.
For tips on starting school, watch Niamh’s advice on TV3
If you have a little one starting school this year, we wish you all the very best of luck!