Is your child ready for school? If not, what should we do?
If you are a parent of a young child, that first day of school can be a stressful and worrying time. My aim for this article is to give you some ideas to help ease the anxiety about school readiness.
Of course, every child is different. However, this article should at least be a good starting point when getting ready for school.
For the short answer, to make sure your child is ready for school, you should do this. Your child should have experienced a wide variety of different places and people before going to school. Also, they should have already had a chance to get used to separating from their parents or whoever is their main carer at home. Give your child plenty of opportunities to socialise with other children before going to school.
For those of you happy to hang around for another few minutes, lets dive into the details!!
Can you remember the last time you started a new job? How did you feel when you walked into your new workplace for the first time? I am sure that for a lot of us, there was some element of anxiety involved. Can you imagine how hard this can be for a young child setting foot into a new environment for the first time?
As parents, we should be doing everything we can for our children, to make sure this anxiety and stress is minimised.
If you start working on the tips in this article early, you should give your child a fighting chance for having a great first day of school!
By the time they get to school, they should already have most of the tools they need to succeed!
The key tips you will need to get your child ready for school are:
TIP 1 - GET YOUR CHILD USED TO NEW EXPERIENCES!
When a child enters school for the first time, the environment is a totally new one for them. Not only that, most of the people inside are likely to be brand new to your child. If your child spends most of their time in comfortable environments, they are likely to find their first day of school tougher. Maybe most of your child’s life has been spent in places such as your home and the homes of your relatives. Throw in a few frequently visited restaurants, and you start to get the idea.
If your child is not used to dealing with the emotions and stress of new environments, how do you expect them to deal with the same thing at school? Widening your child’s experiences will help with school readiness.
To improve this situation, there are a few things you can do!
Play dates may help. When your child is young, start with other children that your child naturally becomes friendly with. See if you can arrange a play date at the other child’s house. This means your child at least knows the child, but starts getting used to dealing with new environments. After you have done this several times, you can then arrange “blind” play dates. Maybe you have a work colleague that has a child of a similar age. By arranging a play date with them, your child can then get more used to dealing with a new environment and new people at the same time.
Take your child to new places on a regular basis. This could be a new restaurant or a trip to a new part of town, for example. Enroll them in a local club (ideally related to something that interests them). Over time, your child will build up an ability to be somewhere they don’t know without freaking out or being anxious!
This is literally the only way to help a young child deal with new environments, is to give them experience dealing with new environments. You don't wont school to be one of a handful of new environments your child has to deal with!
After each new environment your child experiences, you might want to have a debrief with them at home later. Ask them if they had fun in the new environment? What did they like ? What did they not like? Where there any problems? By talking through this each time, you can walk through any problems or concerns they may have and give them advice what to do next time.
TIP 2 - GET YOUR CHILD USED TO SEPARATING FROM YOU!
If their first day of school is the first time your child has really had to separate from you, this will most likely be a major problem. Your child could be upset and emotional at school for weeks or even months. To help improve this, simply make sure your child has already had ample opportunity to get used to being away from the comfort of their parents. I am not saying just dump your child with a stranger and run off! You should build this up over time.
In this article I am referring to parents, but in fact it is the main carer who looks after your child at home. So if the parents are away at work every day, and the grandparents are the main carers. These are the people your child needs to learn to separate from!
At first, have times when you leave your child with a well known family member. Then, maybe organise a play date with a known friend. These play dates will play a massive role in your child getting used to being without you!
By starting with a known family member, you are starting off with an easier to handle form of separation, and only moving on to the harder ones when your child shows they are ready.
When these two situations become easier for your child to handle, you can think about clubs or organisations that they could join to continue development of their independence. This could be a swimming club, art club, football coaching etc. Ideally, this should be a club or group that interests your child. This will give them some incentive to want to try and deal with this situation!
Attending outside clubs or groups is not only beneficial for your child to learn to deal with new environments and work with new children. It will also get your child used to the idea of separating from their main carers for a period of time.
The first few times, the main carer can stand on the sidelines of the club. If this goes well, maybe they can start going away and coming back at the end of the club. This should be a gradual process, and your child should quickly learn that you will always be back at the end of the club to pick them up.
Over time, your child should develop an ability to be without you without great stress or worry. This is a vital part of getting ready for school!
The only other thing I would add to this, is make sure that each time you leave your child explain to them exactly why you have to leave them. This will make the whole situation less confusing for them.
Also, if you see them start to cry, don’t immediately go back and comfort them. This is teaching them that if they cry, you will instantly come back. I know it can be hard to leave a crying child, but from my experience most children will quickly start to calm down and get used to the new environment and situation, once the parent has left. This is also why you MUST explain exactly why you are leaving your child first. When your child starts realising that you will come back, and that you are not leaving forever, they will start enjoying these moments more.
TIP 3 - GIVE YOUR CHILD STRUCTURE!
School is all about structure. OK, Nursery…preschool…(or whatever you call it in your country) is not quite as structured as primary/elementary school, but it still there all the same. Your child won’t be allowed to run around and do what they want in school. So, it helps if they have a similar level of structure at home.
I would recommend you have set routines and behavioural expectations at home, that will make experiencing the same things at school a much smoother experience.
I have many articles on BestCaseParenting.com about behavioural management, you can have a good idea how to set up the structure of your home by just reading a few of them!
Getting ready for school each day should also have a set routine. For example, you can have a special place to hang your child’s uniform and school bag the night before a school day. You follow the same order of tasks to get ready for school every day.
Children like routine, as it enables them to know exactly what will happen next. It takes away any worry or uncertainty. This is why you should try and keep these routines the same every day.
This will help your child arrive at school in the best possible frame of mind!
TIP 4 - LET THERE BE SCRIBBLE
I wouldn't call this an essential thing for school readiness, just something that may help give your child a nice kick start on their first day of school. From an early age, make large paper, crayons and pencils easily available for your child to use. They don’t have to do anything structured, even just scribbling or doodling is fine. This will help build up your child’s fine motor control and will make it much easier for them when they start school. Your child will have a much better opportunity to express themselves through drawing and eventually writing.
I have an article HERE which goes over the process of a child learning to write, if you are interested to look into this further.
TIP 5 - GET YOUR CHILD USED TO OTHER CHILDREN
You may think this is a strange one, but you would be amazed the amount of young children I see that have literally no idea how to deal or work with other children. For example, if a child is in a one child family and spends most of their time with parents or other adults in a family. You will find that the child can hold a great conversation with adults, but is totally confused when confronted with another child of a similar age. When they are used to civilised adults, for example, they don’t know how to deal with other children grabbing toys from them.
So when I talked about getting your child involved with play dates and clubs above, this also acts as a great way to expose your child to other children if this doesn’t naturally happen at home.
TIP 6 - GET YOUR CHILD USED TO THEIR NEW SCHOOL
If you already know the school that your child will attend, it would help a lot to get them used to this environment as much as possible. Maybe the school has open days or fairs on a yearly basis. Do some research, and attend these school events with your child before they actually attend the school. Not only will they get used to the environment, they might also meet some teachers.
Also, talk to your child about what they can do at school. If they have a problem, who should they talk to? Explain some routines, such as the snack or lunch time routine.
Go over their uniform and schoolbag, talking about why they need them and whether they are happy with them.
You want your child to feel at ease about every aspect of their new school day and routine!
This will go a long way to helping your child feel comfortable during their first day of school.
Tip 7 -BRING YOUR CHILD UP TO BE INDEPENDENT!
When your child is at school, they will be expected to start doing more things by themselves. Yes, their teacher will help them in the beginning, but the faster they can show independence at school the better.
This will be another factor to help your child settle into their school more easily!
As they are growing up, don't just do everything for your child. Make sure you are teaching them to be independent at home. This could include tidying their toys after use, putting on their own jacket and shoes, or eating and drinking without assistance.
By helping your child grow up with an independent streak, you are helping them be able to stand on their own two feet once at school.
If they are used to getting everything done for them at home, they will probably have a nasty shock at school when they find out they will get very little help. This will lead to negative feelings and stress at school.
TIP 8 - KNOW YOUR CHILD'S NEW SCHOOL ARRANGEMENTS
This will vary from country to country, and school to school. But, you need to make sure you fully understand every aspect of your new child's school in order to make sure they are as ready as they can be.
For example, if your child is in a full day program, do they have a nap time at lunchtime? If not, you should start preparing your child for this. If they usually have a habit at home to take a lunchtime nap, you should start phasing this out in time for their first day at school. Otherwise, they will be very tired and grouchy for the first few weeks (at least) in their new school.
If your child is eating snack and/or lunch at school, what are the arrangements for that? Maybe they need to get used to eating at a certain time everyday, or eating certain types of food that the school offers.
These are just a few examples. By knowing your child's school well, you will know if their is anything else you should prepare for. If the school is not forthcoming with all the details, you can find a fellow parent who has already sent an older child through the same school. They would often be more willing to go through the details or give insight into any issues their own child had.
What to do when my child cries at school?
So, after all this hard work and advice, and months of preparation......your child still cried like a baby when you dropped them off for school! What should you do?
First of all, don't worry. This is perfectly natural and a learning process for your child.
It may be distressing to see your child upset, but a school has many years experience dealing with these issues, and they will be in good hands.
The problem I see when this happens, is that parents think they should hang around until their child stops crying. Even if the school doesn't let them in the classroom, they may peek through the classroom window or something similar to check on their child.
Actually, this is the worst thing you could do! Every time your child sees you again, they will probably cry harder and the teachers will need to start again on the process of calming your child down.
What is needed is a clean break. If your child is crying, let the teacher simply take them from you and begin the process of settling! This clean break will get your child starting the settling process as soon as possible, with no complications.
Some children settle faster than others, but they will ALL settle eventually! As parents, we just don't want to get in the way of this!
DO NOT wait for your child to be distracted and slip away without telling them! Make sure to say goodbye to your child (even if they are crying) and tell them you will pick them up later.
Your child must learn the routine. They will get dropped off at school and then picked up at school at the end of the day. In between, they will not see you. Anything else, will lead to confusion and more distress for your child.
At first, a young child may think you are never coming back! But, when they get used to the daily routine, they will know 100% that you will be back later to pick them up. It sounds so simple to us as adults, but this is the process a young child must go through.
This is why you shouldn't slip away without telling your child or do anything else tricky to get them to separate and go to school! They need to trust what you say and what you do one hundred percent!
Also, make a point to talk with your child's teacher on a regular basis. This will give you an idea what is happening at school and what you can do at home to ease your child's worries!
The wrap up, and GOOD LUCK!!
Thanks for reading our article, hopefully it helped with some ideas on supporting your child to start their school life well!
You want your child to walk into their first day of school confidently and ready to learn!
Try not to stress too much, as this stress will probably be passed on to your child! Implement these tips and you should find that school is a smoother transition for your child!
How do you go about school readiness for your child? How was your child's first day of school?
If you have any tips or experiences of your own, we would love to hear all about them in the comments section below!
We also love hearing feedback about how useful a article was (or wasn't). Best Case Parenting is still relatively new, and we are also eager to see how we can improve!!