With a new school year set to start, Professor Christine Ure, Head of School in the Faculty of Arts and Education, has some timely words of advice for parents of prep children.
Professor Ure explained that there are a number of things parents can do to prepare their child before they walk through the school gates for the first time.
“Parents want to see their children feeling confident and capable when they start school,” Professor Ure said.
“One of the best ways that you can help lessen your child’s first day jitters is by helping them to construct their own narrative about school.
“If they know that on the first day of school “Daddy will drive me in the car, I will go to this big building, I will walk through these gates with my friend” and the like, that can really help.”
Professor Ure explained that the summer holidays is the perfect time to build the narrative and slowly introduce your child to school life.
“If the school is located nearby, walk your child there and if they’ll be walking to school with a friend, ask them along, too. If not, take a drive to the school so they get a sense of where it is,” Professor Ure said.
“If you’re able to muck about in the playground or wander to their classroom, that helps build the story for them, too.
“At home, perhaps suggest your child draw a picture of what they saw at the school and place themselves in the picture. That can be a really powerful way of helping them to clearly visualise themselves taking part in school life.
“A great activity to do during the summer holidays is to let your child help pack their lunchbox and school bag for a picnic in the backyard or the local park.
“Let them wear their school clothes and help them put them on so they learn to manage all the buttons, clips and zips on their unfamiliar clothes.”
Professor Ure stressed the importance of speaking positively and confidently about school as the big day draws closer.
“Try to take the emotional tension out of the situation when you can,” Professor Ure said.
“Saying ‘I’m looking forward to hearing about all the wonderful things you will do at school’ is so much more constructive than talking about how much you’ll miss them when they’re at school.
“If you can see it as your child’s transition more so than your own – ‘I’m so excited for their next adventure’ as opposed to ‘I can’t believe my baby is so grown up’ – your child will take their positive cues from you. School is their new world and they needn’t feel like they are leaving mum and dad behind.
“It’s so important to provide emotional support and work with your child so that they see school as their next big, exciting step rather than something to be worried about.”
Professor Ure explained that encouraging your child to incorporate ‘being a school kid’ into their imaginative play at home may result in less visits to the lost property office.
“Wearing their school uniform around the house for short periods of time and having them eat their lunch out of their lunchbox can help to build a comforting sense of familiarity.
“One of the things that happens when kids start school is that they lose stuff. If you can help them become familiar with their ‘school things’ this will help to develop a sense of ownership.”
Professor Ure also offered advice on how to avoid tears – from both parents and preps – when the big day rolls around.
“On the first day, parents need to leave their children confidently. By all means, stay for a few minutes, but don’t feel like you need to hang around as emotions can quickly escalate,” Professor Ure said.
“Should you feel a few tears coming on – which is perfectly natural! – try to keep them in until you’re out of the classroom. If your child sees that you are upset, they’ll respond to that.
“You need to have trust in your child that they will settle throughout the morning. Check in with the teacher at the end of the day if you have any concerns.”
(Source: Deakin University)