Live Q&A "Helping your child settle into preschool or primary school" with John Sharry


Mykidstime  : Welcome to our Live Q&A with John Sharry of John is our guest expert tonight and will take your questions about your child starting school or preschool. So thanks to John for taking the time to join us and remember to refresh your screen (F5 button) to see new questions and John’s responses. You can also switch from Top Posts to Most Recent just below our photos at the top of our wall.


Solution Talk : Hi John Sharry here ready for questions!

Mykidstime : Welcome John


Mykitstime : From Niamh:  my daughter starts school next week and is quite shy. On the first day of school parents have to let the kids line up outside the classroom and are not allowed speak to the teacher. I am afraid that my daughter will be very upset having to go into the classroom without me as she can be quite clingy, what is the best way to manage this?

and She is being quite positive about school when we chat about it but from previous experience I am afraid that she will be very upset and refuse to go into the classroom without me. Any advice would be very much appreciated!

Solution Talk : I’d check carefully the school guidelines, as they do often make allowances for nervous children and parents! I’m surprised that they don’t let you drop her into the classroom. But if this is the case, then it is best to be as positive as possible about how the school do it. ( don’t let your daughter see your anxiety or frustration).Then explain the steps to your daughter in a positive upbeat way, how everyone will line up and walk into school and how much fun this will be. One of my favourite techniques to explain routine and events to children is to use a picture chart, whereby you explain the steps of going to school with sequence of picture and show it to her much like a happy story

Audrey-Jane Kelly : I am very surprised aswell that you are not allowed into the classroom . My daughter was very shy and clingy but all the parents were allowed to come into the class and set them up at their seats and introduce them to each other then we headed off.. She was fine as soon as I left but I was in floods xxx

Aideen Ní Chéilleachair : I’d focus very much on how grown up she’s being and all the fun activities they will have and lunch is like a picnic!!…all the stories she will have to tell you when her day is done. Give her some idea of how long the day will be (we talk in terms of TV programmes… 1 hr is 2 “scooby doos”). I would even consider a little bribery…a stop at the shop for a treat after…since she’s being so grown up!! Don’t forget to tell her she’ll be going there every day….many children think it’s a once off!!! Lol

Yasmine O’Connor :same in my dd school, shes starting ji and they are we are not allwowed in teh class room, instead tehy take teh 1by1 and settle them. And once they get in they should be fine. But Id deffo chat with the school if she is as you say a very nervous child.

Denise McDonnell sounds like a prison..not a school………child,s first day and your not allowed into the classroom..on what is one of the most important days in her young life……specchless really……….

Yasmine O’Connor : And make sure that you will be there or who ever is collecting her, at the end of the day when school is over. That was my worst fear when I was younger starting school…..that no1 would collect me and I dbe lost lol!

Liz Lewis :  ‎+1 for Yasmine , my kids school had rule for first day parents left new starters at front door , had picture taken with principal , given a lolly pop and then members of the parents committee bought each child down into the class room. The idea is to create a calmer environment for all the kids. The mums and dads go and have tea in the hall. It worked really well. From day 2 onwards we bought them into the classroom.

Chrissy Macneill : Can she have a special key ring in her pocket with a picture of Mammy on it so that she knows you are hiding in her pocket with her x

Ann Barrett : I think you should b able to make sure your child is ok when both my children start school for the 1st wk we went into the classroom think it very inportent that your child show were they sit who they are sitting next to little things that mean a lot to a small child and it make you feel better that your child is happy and the child is a lot happier and they then enjoy going into school it not much fun sending a child into school crying my youngest is going into 4th class i will still walk into the classroom and she is 9yrs old on the 1st day back want be allowed after that as my little girl would go mad



From Bridgette: question for John my son us starting school on 1st Sept he if 5 and has Down Syndrome for the last week or so I have been trying to get him to try on his school uniform but he refuses any help on getting over this hurdle would be most appreciated ps I have shown him his twin in his uniform but still won’t try it

Solution Talk : what is your sense of why he does not like his uniform? Some children have a clothing sensitivity, ( to textures and seams and the fit etc) – you can get round this by noticing what textures he likes and adapting.

Solution Talk : If it has become an issue between you ,Then, best to take a step back and try again at another time. Being positive makes a difference – singing together as you put it on!!, hiding the clothes round a room and having a game finding them. Or you could do up a poster of him and his twin and make cut outs of each part of his uniform ( shirt tie etc) and every time thye put apiece of clothing on they run over and blue tack on the poster piece.Also if a big issue, maybe for the first day let him go with maybe part of the uniform

Hilary Weldon : try reverse .. hang it up where he can see it and tell him he is not allowed go near it , sometimes works

Chrissy Macneill : Do you have a few age related friends where you can play a game like musical chairs … but when the music stops they must put on an item of clothing :-) then they get to choose a surprise from the mystery bag ….




Mykidstime :  From Mary: Possibly little to be worrying about but the toilet in the classroom has one of those air dryers to dry their hands. Its the ONE thing my daughter has a fear of. Refuses completely to use one and almost has a heart attack when they go off! How can I address this with her? I fear she won’t wash her hands at all at school now!

Ellen O’Neill : our kids have to bring wash bags, their owl little facecloth and soap. they use the face cloth to dry their hands. each child in the school has one.

Ber O’Connell : Mary my son has this insane fear of the hand dryers also so i will be very interested to see anwser to this!

Solution Talk : In the first instance, you could not make this an issue at all and see how she gets on. Goiing to school is a differnet context and she may become less afraid when she sees the other kids using it without a problem – positive peer pressure! If it does become an issue you could pack a self drying soap in her bag and explain to teacher while you also try to help her get used to them outside school

Ellen O’Neill : sorry, that should have said own little facecloth.

Noelle Geary : My son does too Ber although I’ve noticed him recently starting to relax a bit around them.

Yasmine O’Connor : what about giving her a little hand sanitiser spray/gel. ANd maybe when she sees all her other class mates using teh hand dryer she might not be so fearfull of it.

Denise McDonnell : put a lilttle bottle of antibacterial hand gel/spray in her school bag..with instructions to use throughout the day….and maybe a word in the teachers ear to highlight her fear of these hand driers…and she can also make sure your child is using the gel/spray…

Máire Ní Chonghaile : My four year old is the same. It is the thing she is most afraid of. Maybe explain it to her teacher and she might be able to have her own little hand towel. Can say that my little one is gradually getting used to them slowly.

Jennifer Buttner : mary – my son had a dreadful fear of them too and just noticed as he got a bit older that he could put up with them better – he now even uses the odd quiet one! He now 5.5

Marion Egan : I think lots of kids have that fear. Agree not to make deal of it. Give her facecloth to dry her hands with and when she’s ready she’ll use the dryer. There’s enough going on with starting school for her, no need to add to it. Bet she’s not the only one in the class and as someone else posted when she sees her friends using it, her own fear will fade

Anne Hoctor : Agree with the face cloth idea. I think hand sanitiser would be very harsh on young soft skin.

Norrie Feeney-Spellman : Bring in her own towel

Eva Ryan Kennedy : I had to stop giving my two the hand sanitiser because it was drying out their hands to the point they were cracking, maybe a few sheets of kitchen roll would be good.



Ber O’Connell : Hi John, my son is almost 4 and has a medical condition called Osteogenisis Imperfecta, (the slightest thing could cause him to dislocate or fracture a bone, and he suffers extreme fatigue) and because of this condition he needs to have a full time PA assigned to him for preschool. He starts next Wednesday and i am so nervous for him. What would be the best way to integrate him as much as possible into the class with the other kids – i dont want him to stand out as being different, but how do u make a bunch of preschoolers aware that my son needs more gentle handling, he needs to be at the back of the queue to avoid being knocked over and ye cant play rough around him? Is this expecting too much from a group of very young boys?

Solution Talk : That does sound like a challenge to get right. I think the key will be liaising with his preschool teacher and his PA. They should assist you in the best way to help him integrate and to make goals around his mixing with the kids. Is there also a national support group for the condition who may have more specific support.

Noelle Geary: I haven’t spoken about school that much all summer, because everyone we meet seems to ask him instead. All of a sudden its now just over a week to go. What parts especially do you suggest talking about?

Denise McDonnell : the new friends he is going to make..the activities he will do..the uniform…talk about the positives..(not that there is many negatives)…and make it all exciting for him……if you get excited it will rub off him..and make the first day of school a fantastic day for you all..

Solution Talk : I agree, the emotional tone you use to explain things make all the difference – more upbeat the better. if he needs specifc details you could to use a picture chart, whereby you explain the steps of going to schoo and all the thingsl wit h asequence of pictures and show it to him much like a happy story – you can also get some good books in teh shops to read to him about the adventure of going to school



Leeann Roughan : my son is starting school next week hes four , recently hes gone very odd about playing with other children. he will now only insist on playing with one child at atime if there are two children ]]>

Leeann Roughan : my son is starting school next week hes four , recently hes gone very odd about playing with other children. he will now only insist on playing with one child at atime if there are two children there or more he will not go out to play …im worried about him at lunch time in school .how should i prepare him for this im worried he will not play and be left out at lunchtime?

Isla Duffy : What if you met another parent who has a child starting in his class so that he would have a ‘friend’ at breaktimes.

Solution Talk : The yards for first years are usually very protected and the teachers look out for them. like what the last poster said, help your son identify one or two other children he might already know and can play with

Leeann Roughan : I have tried that there are nine kids from his montessori starting in his junior infants class and throughout the summer i have arranged playdays with the other children but he always attaches himself to one child and ignores the rest ! I know he will know those nine kids but he will tell just one of them he wants to play and if they dont want to play with just him he will remove himself altogether.

Jennifer Buttner : The teachers should be watching out Leeann – in most schools they check specifically for children playing with others. If you think will become an issue you could always mention to his teacher and they will then be aware of it

Leeann Roughan : thanks i just feel like he has totally blocked the idea of having more than one friend …the same at home he will only play with one little boy and if anyone else asks him to play he wont.

Belinda Jane Higgins : Leeann – would it be worth looking in to an extra curricular sporting activity for him? I coach a soccer team of five and six year olds (some of them were four starting off last season), including Son Two. It’s a great way of teaching kids about sharing and team work and discipline (great for their physical co-ordination too). He may not like the idea at all, but it was just a thought that I had when I read your post… They make lots of new friends too!

Leeann Roughan : thanks belinda would u believe i have just joined him up to a soccer team i was also thinking being part of a team would encourage him to have more than one friend ..he starts the 17th of septand will play every sat morning so hopefully this will help.

Belinda Jane Higgins : Great minds think alike, Leeann! We play every Saturday too and it’s a big commitment, but brilliant fun too. I hope that he enjoys it and that it helps a bit.

Leeann Roughan : i will try anything to help him the main thing i want is for him to be a happy child!


Leo King : My daughter will start school next week and she’s excited. I want everything positive especially on her first day. The thing is, I can be emotional (I cried buckets during her last day in her playschool). And I don’t want her to see me crying but I really can’t help it. What can I do? (I think my question is a bit funny but I’m serious about this).:-)

ps…let me just say Kudos to you for this event and kudos to all parents like me who thinks nothing but the best for their kids. :-)


Lèon Fox : I cried on my sons first day and he told me not to be silly be was a big boy and would be home in a few hours! That told me 😉

Solution Talk : Well your daughter seeing some of your tears in not necessarily a bad thing – you can explain to her that they are tears of pride and and say how happy you are to see her going into school etc. Though be careful about overwhelming her with your emotion! leave space to notice and listen to her feelings on the day too!

Dublin Mykidstime : Leo, I was the same last year. Deep breathes and a bit or rescue remedy. If I could hold it together till I left the classroom, anyone can!

Leo King : Thank you for your reply. That’s what I actually told her last week when she had her last day in her playschool. I told her: mum is just happy because she wont be in the baby school anymore and will be in the big school soon. Maybe I’m emotional because I’m anxious, worried if she’ll be ok, of course, happy at the same time. Or just because we are parents. I have to admit though that sometimes we underestimate our kids. We worry for them but when they come home they’ll tell us they had a grand time.You are so right, this is the time that I have to be careful not to overwhelm her. I will try my very best.Thanks again! Cheers!

Belinda Jane Higgins : Arra hugs, Leo! You should be proud that you have got her to this stage and that she is so confident and excited about starting school. It does make them very independent and that can be a bit of a wrench as a parent! Hope it goes well for ye.



June Mcloughlin : My daughter cries every morning i drop her 2 chreche,she goes 2 days a wk. She is fine after i go but is there anything i can do 2 stop this? She has been going for d past 2yrs nd cries every mornin! She is 3!

Solution Talk : Quite a common issue. The key is whether she is happy after you leave and whether she is fully participating in creche and school. if so then it will probably fade over time. However worth checking if there is anything sepcific that causes her to be upset (away from the situation) or is it just nerves or a habit that will fade

June Mcloughlin : Well she doesnt always want 2 do what d class is doing nd cries over it! I have explained 2 her she has 2 do what d class is doing nd she understands! Overall i know she is happy there nd d staff r very good! Just d cryin every wk is hard!


Yasmine O’Connor : Just wondering are all schools the same in that kids cant have yogurts? My dd loves yogurs and will be very dissapointed not seeing one in her lunch and also they cant have a drink during their break….they have to wait till lunch. My dd will also not like that as she is a very thirsty child (all clear for diabetes tho)?

Lèon Fox : That’s crazy! Kids need to drink plenty during the day! Yogurts allowed in our school but cereal bars etc banned for sugar content

Jennifer Buttner : Drinks allowed on desks all day at our school if water – that is very unusual policy

Dublin Mykidstime : No yogurts allowed in our school either, due to the mess! More end up on the floor/uniform than in the tummy’s! That sounds very unusual about the drinks

Yasmine O’Connor : I can understand about the yogurts but think its wrong to deprive kids of a drink. My dd is always so thirsty and feel sorry for her coz I know when she is thirsty she is thirsty and will really want a drink, Im worried shel want one and get given out to. Ill suppose Il just have to explain to her :(

Belinda Jane Higgins : That does seem a strange policy on the drinks, Yasmine. Would you bring it up with the principal? Or pass on your concerns to the Parents Association and ask them to bring it up at a meeting? I was on the PA last year in my older boy’s school and we’d no problem with getting feedback from parents and passing it on to the principal at our meetings.

Yasmine O’Connor : Oh no, I dont want to be the hated parent who complaind the 1st year of school I know how clicky some PA’s can be lol! But Ill keep it in mind :)

Hazel Delaney : Yasmine, I joined the PA the first year of my dd’s school. It was MUCH easier to sneak in my views that way over a coffee at a meeting once a month.

Belinda Jane Higgins : Oh I don’t think that’s true, Yasmine. I didn’t know anyone on the PA when I joined (bar the principal). And you’ll probably find that other parents feel the same way about the drinks policy.


Mykidstime : Clare asks: My daughter is starting Junior Infants and the class is being split due to size. I have a strong suspicion she may not have any of the girls she was in playschool the past year with, only boys she already knows. How do I prepare her for that possibility – that her ‘best friends’ may all be in the other room without upsetting her?

Lèon Fox : This happened my son and we explained he’d see his friends at playtime and would get to make new friends in his class

Belinda Jane Higgins : This is happening with my older boy this year – only four kids from last year’s class are going in to a new class with other kids. Like that, I explained that he will see his mates for footie in the yard every break time, opportunity to make new friends, a new teacher etc. (other kids staying with the same teacher as last year). Try to find some positives!

Solution Talk : In the first instance, you couldask the schoolif it is posible that she can stay in the same class as her friends. However if not pssible, dont assume it will be an issue with yoiur duaghter – just explain matter of factly who will be in her class and where the girls she knows will be. Emphasise the positive opporunties to make new friends . there will be so many new things in school so this may not be an issue

Aideen Ní Chéilleachair : I wouldn’t think it was such a negative thing -a that age everyone is friends and if they know a few from playschool or home it almost holds them back from making a little effort with the new friends….they make friends so easily at that age….I’d focus on all the lovely children who will be in her room and how many new friends she will have

Dublin Mykidstime : Clare the exact same thing happened last year with my daughter. She was nervous about it and so was I. She made loads of new friends, met up with her playschool pals in yard and introduced them to the new friends and before long they had their own little new combined circle of friends. It actually turned out perfectly and my daughter as well as building new friendships has kept the playschool friendships too :-)

Jennifer Buttner : I think what Aideen said is very true – my son barely knew only one other starting and had friends made on the first day! School nearly prefers when kids don’t know each other – makes integration across the class alot easier. I also talked about the new friends would be able to invite to his birthday party in dec

Eva Ryan Kennedy : My kids never knew anyone starting school and it didn’t do them any harm, my 3.5 yr old starting playschool next mon and I’m not even going to think about it, he’ll be fine, he will not know anyone there but I’m sure by the end of the week he will

Elaine Holbrook : the school can’t accommodate every parents kid getting into their friends class and to be honest i think its better for them because they don’t become over reliant on their old friends and tend to mix better. your kid will forget within a few minutes as there will be so many others to play with.



Joanne Wall : Hi john, My son is starting school in France in september, he will be 3 in November and is the only speaking english child in his class, he has been in creche in Ireland until July and he loves it, any advice on preparing him for the move to a new language. We were told that french in school and english at home is the best way, he knows some words and I have been teaching him the basics so he knows if he needs anything, any advice would be great

Solution Talk : I am assuming you areboth english speakiing at home and that you are staying long term in France? Though it is might be harder for him in the short term, children are excellent are picking up new languages in

Helen Gaffney : hi Joanne – we moved to Spain when my little fella was 4. He had only afew works of spanish. He intergrated very well,as he was from a different country the other kids were courious – picked up the language really quickly in the yard etc. They are like sponges picking up languages . also use to let him only watch Spanish programs to pick up the language. by the end of the year his Spanish was better than mine lol

Solution Talk : ‎ and preschool especially when they are so young. You can support this by speaking some french to him at home and having french books/ nursery rhymes at home as well as english ones as well as supporting him mixing with frecnh children.

Joanne Wall : We are both irish and speak english at home although both of us don’t have french, we are slowly learning. My husband has been based over here for last 18 months but all his work is in english, just wondered if there was any tips, we;ve gone down to the school and he is very excited, also can you recommend any questions that I should ask the head mistress to help him, as we are meeting her next friday

Solution Talk : Ask her how she plans to help him settle in and learn french? ask her how she will ensure he gets on socially with the other children etc



Amy Kearney :Hi John :) My little boy is starting preschool next Monday, he was 3 in May and has been potty trained almost a year now. I’ve explained to him about asking his teacher when he needs to go to the toilet, wash hands etc. Lately I find I have to remind him to go to the toilet or ask if he needs to go and he seems to have the occasional wet patch on his trousers. I’m nervous that he’ll have a lot of ‘accidents’ in school! Any tips would be great?

Solution Talk :At three needing reminders to go to the toilet is very normal. His preachool teachers should be well used to this and you can flag it to them. Give the teacher a couple of spare pants and trousers.y

Isla Duffy : I always found that hard mustering up the courage to ask to go to the toilet in primary school.

Amy Kearney : He is just too occupied most of the time to bother going to the toilet! Thanks for your help!


Aine Whelan : Hi, My son is starting next week. He is 5. He had told me he is very nervous about it. He went to my mum’s creche prior to this and got very upset on graduation day. He thinks he is leaving both his granny and his routine is completely changing. He doesn’t know anyone in his class and he isparticularly difficult when it comes to dealing with change. He is becoming more aggressive during the summer (I think it’s related to being nervous about school) and he is flat out refusing to do things related to school now e.g. buy a school bag, pencil case etc , despite how much fun I try to make it. I am worried that he will not react well to school and also that in the coming weeks, he may react aggressively to other children (out of fear) and end up in trouble early on in school or be ostracised by the other kids. Any advice is appreciated.

Solution Talk : it is good you are senstive to his feelings becuase you are probably spot on about how he is feeling sad at leaving granny and having a new change. Acknowledge all this and reassure him he will see granny again ( involve her in some of preparations?) Dont worry too much about him not wanting to buy the bag or pencil – some children dont like to prepare too much – he could just arrive a settlereasonably well if you explain the steps to him (see some of my other answers below). Do however, manage his aggression and insist on the rule of being polite at home and have consequences for this ( and reward him for good behaviour) – the more this is managed at home the more he will manage at school – see my book Positive parenting for ideas on this


Mykidstime Any final questions……?

Denise McDonnell yep……can u give me the winning lotto numbers for tomorrow nite…ha ha



Mykidstime Hi Folks, we’re going to finish up now and say thanks to John for joining us. For any questions that we didn’t get to, email us at and we will make sure John sees them. John will be running a Parenting Course for 1 to 6 years olds in Dublin starting in October, you can find details of this and more articles and information on

‎Belinda Jane Higgins Great Q&A – thanks John!

Jennifer Buttner Great Q&A – thanks John

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This website was created by Jill Holtz and Michelle Davitt, both of whom are mothers of young children. Jill and Michelle decided to create this resource themselves, and launched in 2007.