Parents of children of a certain age may currently find themselves feeling a bit on edge and wondering how to manage the transition to ‘Big school’ which is just around the corner at the end of the summer. We’re here to give you a few tips and pointers on how to approach this major milestone in your child’s life…
Firstly, bear in mind that although for us adults September will be here in the blink of an eye, for your just four or nearly five-year-old, the 3 months before they start school stretch endlessly ahead. Children at this age have a limited concept of time, so it’s important to keep this in mind, along with remembering how much your child can change in just a few months.
In the run up to your child starting school, you can help them develop lots of practical and social skills that will help them to settle in. You can gently introduce all of these things at home over the next few months, but don’t worry too much if your child doesn’t master them before September!
If your child is going to be having school dinners, which are free for all children in reception, they will need to be able to carry a tray and use a knife and fork. If they will be taking a packed lunch, they will need to be able to open their lunch box and any packaging by themselves. You can practice these skills during family mealtimes at home, on a picnic or a trip to a café.
Encourage you child to begin to take themselves to the toilet and wash their hands afterwards, if they are not doing so already. You can also help them to protect their own health and that of others by teaching them to use a tissue when they need to, disposing of it in the bin and washing their hands after to reduce the spread of germs. Your child will benefit from able to dress and undress for P.E. lessons and you can make life easier for their class teacher by teaching your child to do up their coat and fasten their shoes where possible.
You and your child may find the transition to school a difficult time emotionally. You may have difficult memories of starting school yourself, or you may have loved every minute. As a parent it is important to try and remain calm and open to your child’s own anxieties or excitement. Talk to them about starting school, what they might do there, and who they might meet in a matter of fact way, and be prepared to listen to any worries they might have. If your child seems overwhelmed by the change, try and remain calm and reassuring. Most schools have opportunities for you to visit, meet the class teacher, and find out about routines as part of their transition arrangements and it is very beneficial to go along to these.
During the first few days, try not to worry if your child is upset or uncharacteristically quiet, or even over excited when you drop them off or pick them up. Each child will have their own individual way of managing their emotions. If you are worried, make time to speak to your child’s teacher. They will usually be able to reassure you that your child is settled and happy after a few minutes. If you are finding your own emotions hard to deal with, try not to linger, or to let your child see you upset as this can be very unsettling for them. Say a cheerful goodbye and leave smiling if you can – you child will be much happier if they see that you are. You can always have a bit of a cry when you get back to the car, you won’t be the only one!