Parents can help their children make a positive start to primary school by tackling a major cause of school-related jitters – fear of the unknown, say experts at Australian parenting website, raisingchildren.net.au.
“There are a number of strategies parents can use in advance to reduce first day of school nerves for everyone in the family,” says Associate Professor Julie Green, raisingchildren.net.au Executive Director.
“Revisiting orientation and transition activities with your child will make the school environment more familiar; explaining school rules and why they’re important will also help your child adjust in the early days; and showing your child key locations – such as where to be picked up will help address some of the anxiety they may be feeling.”
The fear of the unknown is not only a concern for children, parents may also be feeling anxious in the lead-up to school starting.
“Parents may also be emotional in the lead-up and on the first day of school. Have a think about how you might manage your feelings in front of your child,” Associate Professor Green said; “Even if you are feeling anxious or worried, it is best to keep these feelings to yourself and send your child off with a big smile and lots of positive reassurance.”
Tips to make transition to school go smoothly from raisingchildren.net.au:
- Do some road testing: Try on the uniform and shoes, practise opening the lunchbox, pack and test the school bag, make sure you have any required equipment such as pencils and markers.
- Excitement is infectious: If you are enthusiastic about your child starting school you’ll send a positive message that school is fun.
- Prepare the whole family: Think about reining in the late nights and sleep-ins in the week before school, reinstating normal bedtime. This will make getting out of bed for school is easier and assist with fatigue in the early days.
- Make room for you: Think about how you’ll manage your feelings on the first day. Try to see your child off with a happy, confident goodbye – but plan something for yourself after and seek support if you need help with feelings of sadness or worry.
- Transitions can be tiring: School is a big transition so your child might need extra rest and emotional support in the first few weeks. For example, dropping off and picking up on time will help reduce anxiety.
- Patience pays off: It might take a while for your child to adjust – or to talk about their experiences. Gentle, specific questions like ‘what was one fun thing you did today’ can be more effective than open-ended questions such as ‘how was your day’.
For more on this topic see Starting school: preparing your child.