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Preparing to start school

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The first day at school can be tough – for both children and parents – but making sure you’re prepared for this next stage in life can help keep the trauma to a minimum. This preparation includes ensuring your little one is equipped with the practical skills they will need in a classroom, as well as getting ready to say goodbye at the school gate.

Expectations at school

At school, children will be expected to sit, wait and listen, in addition to having a certain level of independence such as dressing, undressing and toileting. If you’ve been taking the lead on this, then maybe it’s time to take a step back and start encouraging your child to do these things for themselves. There will be plenty of new challenges for them to take on at school, so the more tasks they are accustomed to before being sent out into the big wide world, the better.

Prepare them

Not that school is a daunting prospect for all children; some will relish the opportunity, but for many it is a frightening and uncertain time.You can help get them used to the idea by reading books about starting school and talking openly about the subject. You could take regular walks past their soon-to-be school and tell them what will happen when it’s their turn to join the other children. It’s also worth bearing in mind that whatever your child’s anxieties, teachers will have seen it all before and most schools have systems in place to help the new starters settle in.

Take advantage

first day at schoolTake advantage of open days and find out what the systems are. Showing your child round their new school will also help them visualise where they are going to be so that it is not all strange to them on the first day. During the initial few weeks, it is vital to keep communicating with your child and look out for signs that suggest things are not going well. Dr Pat Spungin says: “It’s not uncommon for a child in their second week not to want to go to school. They’ll say, ‘I’ve been to school now and I don’t need to go back’. The excitement of the first week has worn off, but they still feel nervous. Dr Spungin says you can watch your child’s behaviour as well as listen to what they say. “Look at your child’s behaviour in the morning when you get ready for school.”

Contacting school

Contact their teacher in this first instance if you think something is wrong. First days at school can also be a traumatic time for the parents. “It can be hard to cope when you see your child lining up in the playground for the first time,” says Dr Spungin. “This is normal. It’s your child’s real first step to independence. It’ll be a world that they know and you don’t. When your child settles down and enjoys school, it’s a tribute to how well you have raised him or her, so try to look at it positively.”

 

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