HELPING YOUR CHILD FEEL SCHOOL READY
The summer holidays are almost over and for most kids next week represents the start of a new school year. Some will be starting school for the first time, others will be starting in new schools and others will be staying at the same school but joining new classes.
Many kids are excited to be starting back at school, but for others this can be a difficult time – one that brings plenty of opportunity to flex that all important resilience muscle. This can be a difficult time for parents too; one that can bring mixed feelings.
So what can you do to ensure your children are school ready? Here are some suggestions:
Ensure they are well rested. School holidays can bring late nights, early starts and action packed days. Start putting your children to bed at the same time they would normally go to bed when at school. Encourage them to wake earlier so that first day back at school isn’t a shock to the system
Gently ease them back into a routine. Routines often go out of the window during the school holidays. Discuss with your children what their routine will be once school returns and gradually introduce this. You can ask your children to write their routine down and stick it on the fridge
Help them feel prepared and involve them in the preparations. Encourage them to find their uniform, shoes, hat and school bag. They can pack their school bag in advance and lay out everything they need for their first day back. Ask them to find their pencil cases and dig under their bed for lost pens and pencils. Younger children can practice doing up the laces or buckles on their shoes
For younger children completely new to school, you can encourage your child to wear their uniform and get used to what this feels like. You can practice taking the journey to school and walking around the school grounds (if the school is open). Some schools have opened up their playgrounds to the public during the holidays – what a perfect opportunity to familiarise your child with their new school
For younger children, read them stories about children starting at school, and organise play dates with other children who will be starting at the same school. For older children, organise play dates with children who will be going back to the same school, or who you know will be joining your child’s new school
Think about what additional responsibilities you are going to give your children – they are a year older than this time last year and are often capable of more than you might think. Really challenge yourself – 5 year olds can unstack the dishwasher, 8 year olds can make their own lunch. Be clear in your expectations, provide coaching and teaching and encourage them to add their new jobs to their routines
Spend time with them, encourage them to open up and talk about what is on their mind, listen to them and show them empathy. Some may be excited, but others may be worried about whether they will be in a class with their friends, how they can lift their academic performance up a gear or what will happen if they accidentally lock themselves in the bathroom. For most there are mixed feelings. And remember – your role is not to solve their problems for them, it is to teach them how to problem solve
If your child is feeling anxious or worried, teach them some simple strategies for managing this. Teach them deep breathing, make a worry box or practise some realistic thinking. Check out some of my other blogs for further info on these tools
And last but not least, manage your own feelings about your child going back to school. We need to be excited and enthusiastic about our kids starting back at school. We are our kids’ mirror and we want to convey positive messages about school – that school is a good place to be, and that they will cope with whatever comes their way
Play schools with your younger children - take it in turns to play the role of student and teacher