Preparing Your Child To Start School

Dr Kaylene Henderson
Child Psychiatrist

Starting school is such a big step for the whole family. Often, both children and parents alike will feel apprehensive about what this new stage might be like.

If you are preparing your child to start school, here are some helpful tips to consider:

  1. Playgroup: Does your school run a playgroup you could attend to help your child become more familiar with the setting?
  2. Will you have the opportunity to visit the classroom ahead of time? Perhaps you could also locate the toilets and the water bubblers together while you’re there. Encourage your little one to practise unpacking his bag, sitting in the classroom, locating the toilets and familiarising himself with the environment as much as possible.
  3. Will you have a chance to meet your child’s teacher in advance?
    A crucial step to settling your child into school is encouraging a bond between your child and his teacher. If you have a chance to meet your child’s teacher ahead of time, it can help to take a photo of your child and his teacher together. Then pop this photo on your fridge to help your child’s teacher become a familiar face within your home.
  4. Does your child know anyone else starting school at the same time?
    You’ll set him up for success if your child knows some friendly faces from the start.
  5. Role play some of the potentially challenging social situations at home. For example, practise going to the teacher with a problem, joining in with a group who are playing together, responding appropriately when another child acts unkindly etc;
  6. Read books about starting school
  7. Practise all the little things that your child will now need to be able to do independently, such as tying his shoelaces, refiling his water bottle and opening containers or packets of food from his lunchbox.
  8. Practise goodbyes. Practising your goodbyes is particularly important if your little one has struggled with separation distress before.

All children will feel nervous about starting school. By familiarising your child with their new environment and routine ahead of time, you’ll be easing this transition and setting your child up for success.

Dr. Kaylene Henderson is a medically trained Child Psychiatrist and one of Australian’s leading parenting experts. She is also a mother of three zany young children.

Kaylene shares her practical tips for parents on TV, radio, print media and with her engaged social media community. Visit ‘A Dose of Awesomeness’ to
download her popular online advice packs on a range of topics including anxiety, behaviour, meltdowns, school readiness and more. Together, we can help our kids to become more calm, kind and resilient…what could be more awesome? www.adoseofawesomeness.com

*For simplicity, children are referred to using masculine pronouns (‘he’/‘him’) in this article, although the information equally applies to girls.

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