If your child is starting school this year, it is completely natural for you, and them, to feel apprehensive. This milestone in your child’s life can be nerve-wracking for us parents – will they adjust to school life; will they cope with the routine; will they make friends? Fear not, there are some things you can do to ensure the transition to big school goes as smooth as possible. Here are 14 Easy Ways You Can Help Your Child Settle At School.
#1. Ensure They Have Mastered Basic Skills
To help make their transition to big school as easy as possible, ensure your child has mastered some basic skills:
- Go to the toilet alone
- Hold and use a pencil
- Know some letters, colours and numbers
- Interact socially and make friends
- Open and close their shoes, coat, zippers/buttons
Practice these in the run up to starting school, so you and they are confident.
#2. Involve Them in School Preparations
Take them with you when shopping for school books, school bags, lunchbox and other school supplies. Be positive about the whole shopping expedition, and where possible, let them choose their school bag or lunchbox. Ensure that your child can open and close their school bag, lunchbox and drink bottle.
Involve them in covering books, labelling and getting their school bag ready for the first day.
#3. Visit School Before First Day
Most schools will invite the new children in to the school before they start, to see their classroom and meet the teacher. Be sure that you and your child avail of this as it is really helpful for them to see where they will be going, meet their teacher, and perhaps even some make new friends.
If your school doesn’t offer this, or you have missed this visit, call and ask the school if you could perhaps visit at another time before school starts back.
Your child may be anxious about this visit, or perhaps even come away from the school saying they are never going back! But stay positive, and talk about all the good parts of their visit – the children they met, what toys were in their classroom, what was the teacher’s name etc.
#4. Find Familiar Faces
It can be daunting for a child to start school and know nobody in their class. Even if they never become long-term friends, familiar faces can help them settle in on the first few days.
So if your child doesn’t know any of the children starting in their class, ask the school to perhaps put you in touch with some of the other new parents, and try have at least one play-date or more in advance of school starting. It will also help you get to know some of the new parents.
#5. Practice with Uniform & Shoes
If your school has a uniform policy, practice trying on the uniform and shoes before school starts. Make sure your child feels happy opening and closing zips, buttons, fasteners, taking on and off their jumper, and choose shoes with easy close fasteners.
Ensure they feel confident that they can do what they need to do, on their own, during the school day.
#6. Outline the Daily Timelines
In a cheerful and positive manner, explain what the daily routine will be like.
- School will start at X time.
- We will go in and take your coat off and go to classroom. We’ll say good bye for a little while.
- You will have a small break after 1 hour – eat this part of your lunchbox then.
- You will then get to play outside with your friends.
- You will have a larger break after another while – eat the rest of your lunch then.
- Afterwards you will get to play some more.
- Then I will come and collect you.
Some kids might like the exact details from standing in line, to taking the coat off, to saying goodbye to Mummy/Daddy, whilst others will be fine with a vague outline. You know your child best, so do what works for them.
#7. Establish a Good Bedtime Routine
Your usual bedtime routines will probably have relaxed over the summer holidays, so start moving bedtimes a bit earlier each night for a week before the first day if possible. And once you’re back at school, it’s time to get firm. Being ‘firm’ doesn’t have to be ‘mean’. You can still be the sweetest, loveliest, cuddliest parent in the world – it’s just rules are rules.
Your children will be happier if they have had enough sleep at nighttime, and you won’t have to be dragging them out of bed in the morning for school.
If your child is overtired, they will be more teary and less able to cope – so make sure you give them the best chance to settle into school by ensuring they have had the correct amount of sleep at night.
#8. Give Yourself Enough Time In The Morning
Ensure that your give yourself and your child enough time in the morning – the last thing you want to be doing is rushing around to get organised, and landing into school after the bell has rang. This will only cause unnecessary stress for you both.
Get up 30 mins earlier than normal if necessary, for the first few weeks/months, to give you time to get breakfast ready, lunchbox packed and out the door in a calm manner. Younger kids will find it hard to adjust to their new routine, so allow time for them to learn. And getting to school before the bell rings allows them to socialise with their class-mates which can help them settle in quicker.
#9. Be Happy, Cheery & Firm
When it comes to saying goodbye when you drop them at school, be happy, cheery and firm. A positive “goodbye, and looking forward to hearing all your news later” will make all the difference to your child (even if you are crumbling inside!) – if they see you are positive and happy and not worried, it will help them to learn that they have nothing to worry about either.
And don’t worry about sobbing as soon as you leave the classroom – this is completely normal – we’ve all been there!
#10. Don’t Compare
Children are all so different – some will run off in to the classroom with hardly a backwards glance, whilst others can be clinging to their parent’s hands or legs long after the first day.
Don’t be tempted to compare your child with another. Every child adjusts to change differently – some may take it in their stride, whilst for others it’s a time of high anxiety. It is no reflection on you, the parent, or indeed your parenting skills.
If your child does continue to be a ‘clinger’ at drop-off, just continue to be positive and firm as you say goodbye. I speak from experience when I tell you, they will eventually settle – I promise!
#11. Teach Them To Be Organised
Your child will be coming home with lots of new information, timetables and details of things to remember. It won’t be surprising if a little anxiety sets in.
Create a wall-chart or get a whiteboard or day-planner to hang on the bedroom wall and use different coloured pens to categorise all the things they need to remember.
Organise a place of storage for all their things – school bags, gym gear, lunchboxes etc. – and tell your child exactly what you’d like them to do e.g. “This is where we keep the sports bags and this is where we’ll hang our coats and leave our shoes”.
#12. Encourage Your Child To Talk About School
Encourage your child to open up about school if possible – what was good, have they any worries etc?
Experience has taught me that if you ask your child “how was school”, you will most likely get the answer “Fine”! So you will need to get inventive if you want your child to open up to you. Ask questions like:
- Who did you play with today?
- Did anyone make you laugh today?
- What game did you play at break-time?
- What are your favourite things to do in school?
- Tell me a new word that you heard today?
- When were you happiest today?
- If you could choose who to sit beside in school, who would it be?
- What was your favourite part of your lunch?
#13. Approach Teacher
Establish a relationship with your child’s teacher, and know that you can easily approach them if your child is struggling to settle in. They will most likely have some suggestions to help your child settle into their new environment – they have after all, seen this may times before.
#14. Foster Friendships
I found that fostering friendships early on really helped my son settle into school. As soon as they start to bond with some children, have some play-dates either at your house, or somewhere neutral. As children develop these friendship bonds, it makes it easier for them to say goodbye to you in the morning, and look forward to going in to see their friends.
This will also help you get to know some of the new parents better.
Over to you! Have you any other suggestions to help children settle into school. Let us know in the comments below.