WITH September approaching fast, thoughts are now turning to the first day at school.
A free leaflet to support Clare parents with children starting primary school entitled Going to Big School has been published online by Early Childhood Ireland and the National Parents Council Primary (NPC).
The handy guide, which is available at www.earlychildhoodireland.ie and www.npc.ie, aims to reduce stress levels over the next few weeks as children and their parents get ready to make the transition into primary school. In addition, Early Childhood Ireland has published a free leaflet, Going to Preschool, with advice for parents with children taking that first step into preschool.
Parents are advised to take the time now to get organised and talk to their child about starting school. Anxious parents are also reminded that children are very alert to the emotional messages sent out by parents who must not panic or look for problems where none exist.
Tips for the first day of school include:
1. Have clothes, uniform and shoes clean and ready.
2. Make sure your child eats a good breakfast, as learning requires energy and enthusiasm.
3. Have your child’s name on all their belongings. They will be confident in recognising their own name.
4. Have their lunch and/or healthy snacks ready, along with an easy-to-open lunch box.
5. Know your route to the school. If time or distance allows, why not walk?
6. On reaching the door, smile and talk with the teacher in a friendly way. Relax and don’t fuss. Let your child know that you’re confident they can manage. Remember that your child is alert to the emotional messages you send out, so don’t panic and don’t let the child see you crying. If they do, explain that you are crying because this is a happy day.
7. Help your child to find a seat and hang up their coat. In a new situation, your child may want to hold onto their school bag or put it down beside their chair.
8. Support your child to connect with other children around the table with a simple ‘hello’. Let you child know when you are leaving and assure him/her you will be back to collect them at the end of the school day.
9. If your child is fine going in on the first day, just walk away and don’t look for problems where none exist. The majority of children will sail in, no problem. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee and a little treat, as this is a big day for you too.
10. If your child does cry going in, follow the lead of the teacher. Often children who come in the door crying are ok and laughing five minutes later. Rest assured that if your child is not settling, the teacher will contact you.
11. Make sure to return for pick-up on time, as children can fret when they see other children leave before them.
12. Make sure you are not under time constraints in those first few days. It may take a few minutes to help them settle in so make sure you have that flexibility. It is important that your child doesn’t feel pressurised or hurried.
13. Don’t expect the teacher to give you detailed feedback in the first two weeks when the whole group is really settling in. If there is any problem, the teacher will let you know.
14. Ensure your child gets enough sleep and has a good balanced diet. New routines make extra demands on children.
Áine Lynch, CEO of the National Parents Council Primary said, “The transition for parents and children can be challenging and it is important that support is available so that it also becomes a time of excitement and discovery for both the parent and child. Just as early childhood settings and primary schools should work together to support this transition in children’s lives, Early Childhood Ireland and the National Parents Council Primary have come together to produce what will hopefully be a useful guide for parents to use during this transition period.”
Irene Gunning, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, said, “We are delighted to work with the National Parents Council to help parents to get themselves and their child ready for ‘big school’. We want to remind parents, who might be feeling a little anxious right now, that the groundwork for this transition has already been done in preschool. As a result of this preparation work at preschool, it won’t be the same jolt that parents remember their first day at school being and parents must not project their own anxieties onto their children.
“As well as checking off the uniform, booklist and school bag, take the time now to chat to your child about big school as a great place to make new friends and do new things. Talking about it is key but don’t hype it up and set too high an expectation. A steady as s/he goes approach is best.”