Starting school is a huge step in the life of both parent and child, and marks the start of a huge formative factor in their young lives. Choosing the right school and ensuring your child is ready to meet the challenge is one of the best things a parent can do. Of course it’s up to the individual child to adapt to the new environment and routine, but there are certain things a parent can do to help with this preparation and ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.
1. Visit the school together. Well before they start, the best thing you can do is make the school feel like a familiar environment. Although they’ll be shown around on their first day, it’s even better if you can walk around and take the time to look at everything thoroughly, and point out where they’ll be and where they’ll need to go throughout each day. Play on the playground and build up a positive association wherever possible.
2. Ensure they can read and write their own name. Some children will already have begun learning to write and read, but if they haven’t, it’s important they can at least recognise and preferably write their own name. Their desk, bag hook and other personal items in the classroom will all be named, so they’ll feel a lot more comfortable if they can instantly recognise which spaces are just for them.
3. Get into a regular reading habit. Reading will make up a large part of the school day, so if they’re already used to doing this (and associating it with a positive experience), it will be much easier for them to adjust. Even if they can’t yet read for themselves, just spend time with interesting books and get them used to listening, as this will also be a large part of learning in the classroom.
4. Assure them they can always talk to adults. A large part of the nervousness children feel at starting school comes from feeling alone or unsure. It’s important that they know that not only can the teacher help them, they can help with anything – including seemingly small or trivial things that can nonetheless upset a child.
Starting school can be a stressful time for a child, so the best thing you can do as a parent is to remove a lot of the worry and uncertainty and let them just focus on their learning.