Things you can do
Start talking about school
Take your child on a pre-visit, lots of schools offer them. Afterwards talk with them about the visit. Can they remember what the teacher said? It will help have a sense of what might happen on their first day.
Ask them what they will need to remember to pack in their school bag? The more talk about the whole experience of being at school the more they will have rehearsed it in their minds and the more confident they will feel.
Chat to siblings and friends
Speaking with siblings or friends can give a child a different point of view. They may ask what it is like to make new friends or have a new teacher.
Practise key skills
These range from things like:
- dressing themselves
- going to the toilet independently
- good social manners by saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, to being able to sit at the dining table to eat their breaktime snack and lunch.
- washing and drying hands before eating
- trying to use the right cutlery
Praise to your child to keep these behaviours going, and remind them that the teacher will also be looking out for these skills.
It can be a huge challenge to make and keep friends. Remind your child that others in their class may feel unsure and so saying hello, smiling and asking another child if they want to play is a good place to start.
If you have a chance over the summer holidays, try and create opportunities for your child to mix with other children. Sharing is an important skill, encourage them to ask others if they would like to play with them, especially if they see a child who looks shy or upset.
If your child is shy, this may involve supporting them that little bit when they are with other children e.g. make suggestions about games they play well that they could ask others to join them in.
Establishing good routines
Getting into a good routine with your child is important and creates good habits early on. You may want to have a calendar that gives them a visual reminder of how many weeks/days are left before they start school.
Having a good night time routine is a great example. Children who have the right amount of sleep will be ready for learning and the rigours of all aspects of school life.
At bedtime why not chat about their day? This time will also help children develop a way of reflecting on the day, naming the things that went well and planning how to tackle the more tricky aspects of being at school which might be learning a new skill, developing friendships and feeling confident.
Get things ready
Make sure your child has the right equipment ready for when they start school - from a pencil case to a lunch box. Help your child to make a list (they can draw the items) of all the things they will need for school – you could even make a game of finding some of the items around the house.
Plan the trip to buy everything. Remember to label clothing and equipment will also help children feel that they know what belongs to them, this can help children feel organised.
Getting ready may also include anticipating meeting different people. Your child may have been in smaller settings – i.e. a small nursery, so in going to a bigger school they will encounter lots of different children which will be new to them.
Help your child look forward to meeting new people and help them be open to the differences there might be between themselves and others.
Take time to listen
Children need time and space to talk about what they might be excited about or what may be worrying them.
Worries may not be obvious, for example is your child:
- a bit quiet when school is mentioned?
- does their behaviour may seem out of character and a bit more difficult.
A listening ear is always helpful to get worries out in the open, encourage your child to speak without interruption. Worries about leaving parents at the school gate, not knowing what to do when they get to school and making friends are common.
Take worries seriously but also ask your child if they have any ideas about how to manage these worries. For some children, just having the chance to say what is on their mind is really helpful. For other children, learning positive self-talk is really helpful and it’s a skill that all children can be helped to develop.
Try and help them spot when they come up with solutions to some of their worries. Always reassure children that any big worries can be shared with their teacher – this helps them know that he or she is looking out for them.