The big move to primary school for your child can be both exciting and incredibly daunting for both of you. Emotions can run high and this can sometimes cause anxiety. At NCAC we understand the concerns you and your child may be feeling so we have put together some useful pointers to make the transition as smooth as possible and even a little fun! A smooth transition can have a positive effect on your child’s success at school in the long term, so it is important that the transition process is as balanced and enjoyable as possible.
What is ‘school readiness’?
You may start hearing the words ‘school readiness’ in relation to your child starting school. When considering whether your child is ready to start school, think about things such as your child’s age, maturity, social and emotional skills, physical wellbeing and their ability to manage simple self-help tasks independently.
Compare what will be new or different about school to the early education setting your child may have already experienced. Some issues you might want to consider:
- The number of adults looking after your child may be smaller than in child care and group sizes will generally be larger
- The outdoor environment may be minimally supervised and unfenced
- Your child will be required to follow verbal instructions and school rules, and there may be a focus on formal educational experiences and routines
- Your child will often need to interact with children of varying ages, some of whom will be much older than them
- The children in your child’s new class may be many months older or younger than your child
- Whether your child is likely to be one of the youngest in the class, has he/she developed the social skills to cope with this
- Whether your child will need to travel to school by bus or will they need to attend before and/or after school care.
Some of these issues may present challenges for individual children in the transition to school. These new experiences may be particularly difficult for children whose social and emotional skills still require a high level of adult support.
If your child already attends a child care service, consider talking to the child care professionals about their view of your child’s readiness for school.
How can I make the move to school easier for my child?
Talk about school with your child
Talk to your child about what school will be like and what will happen during the school day. It may be helpful to talk to the school and possibly the teacher to find out what will happen in the classroom. For example do children have ‘mat time’, ‘news time’ or ‘recess’? Do they watch television? Do they have library or sports days? It can also be helpful to share your own positive memories and experiences about school with your child.
However try to avoid giving your child overly high or unrealistic expectations about what school will be like, as a child’s disappointment when the first day is not as expected may disrupt the settling process.
Visit the school
Many schools offer opportunities for visits to the school and classroom for incoming students. This can be a great way to help your child feel comfortable in the school environment. The more times your child can visit a school before they start, the better.
Practice school activities with your child
Allow your child to try on their school uniform and practice using a lunchbox and drink bottle. Introduce language such as ‘play lunch’ or ‘recess’ for snack time as this may help these new routines to become familiar.
Spend time with other children who are going to school with your child
Your child will feel more relaxed and comfortable if they can start school with children they already know. If your child is in child care it can be beneficial to find out which children will be going to the same school as your child and arrange for them to spend time with these children.
How can I help my child to settle into school?
Saying goodbye can often be the hardest part of the process. Plan for how you will say ‘goodbye’ to your child when they first start school. This can be quite an emotional time but it is important to show your child that you feel happy and confident about leaving them at school. Saying a quick confident goodbye, may help them to feel secure and reassured. It is also important to remember that many children react emotionally to the initial separation before settling quite happily.
Label your child’s possessions
Remember to label everything, including clothes, bags, lunch boxes, drink bottles and stationery. Along with saving money, this can reduce anxiety for children, families and school staff.
Talk with your child
Take time to ask your child about their day, and to find out if they are feeling happy and settled. If your child has trouble settling, it may be helpful to seek a meeting with your child’s teacher. Remember teachers are there to help and want your child to feel settled as much as you do.
Avoid overloading your child
Coping with the school environment may leave your child feeling worn out. Encourage your child to have some quiet time and unwind after the school day.
How can the child care service help my child’s transition to school?
Child care services can be extremely helpful in the transition process. Many child care services provide a range of ‘transition to school experiences’, such as:
- Arranging visits to local schools
- Reading stories about school
- Talking to children about schools and encouraging them to ask questions or voice their concerns
- Supporting children to develop their self-help and social skills.
When considering your child’s school readiness it is important to think about their individual needs, skills and interests along with their social and emotional skills.
Once you decide that your child is ready for school, there are many valuable activities that may help them be prepared for school. Both parents and child care professionals can play a significant role in supporting each child’s transition into school. Remember you’re not alone and many families will be feeling the same emotions. If you have any questions regarding your child’s transition to school you can contact an NCAC Child Care Advisor for support on 1300 136 554.
National Childcare Accreditation Council Inc.