From Preschool to Primary School in Times of a Pandemic

Each week we publish an article that focuses on different aspect of Positive Parenting. Articles are contributed by members of Parenting Limerick, a network of agencies working with parents and families in Limerick city and county.

As the lockdown measures start to ease, children must prepare for their journey back to school. Moving on from preschool to primary school can be daunting for children and parents alike.  There are no two ways about it! This September, transitioning into the primary school system will be very different.

Educators work tirelessly to ensure preschoolers are ready to make the big step. However, this year transition supports will need to be carried out remotely. As parents, there are many things we can do to help. At the same time, it is important to reduce stress and be realistic about what we can and cannot do at home.

Reach out to your child`s preschool. Your child`s preschool educator will have resources to support your child’s transition. If you are not already in touch, make contact. They are likely to have valuable advice, school readiness resources, or suggestions for activities to carry out at home with your child.

Link in with the school. In the same way as the preschool educator can support the transition, so too can your child`s new school. Your child`s new school will send information about the school, as well as protocols that may now be in place after lockdown. It is important that these new school systems are understood and explained so that children know what to expect.

Talk to your child about school. This will help to prepare them and help getting used to the idea. If you can’t bring them to show them their new school, try making a photo book so your child will know what the school looks like, where they will have their lunch, and all the fun and exciting activities they can look forward to!

Read books and tell stories about starting school. Try reading a positive story together about a child starting school. to support your child to feel secure and excited about this new adventure. Better still, talk about how excited you were when you started school and about the activities that you did, the games you played and the friends that you made.

Talk about how all of this feels. This is a stressful time, and the transition may bring additional pressure on children and their families. It is important to provide space for children to talk about how they are feeling. By talking through situations, children make sense of it all and learn to manage their emotions.

Practice self care skills. Take this time to support your child to develop some independence around self care skills.  Your child will have a better experience in school if they can open their lunchbox, close their shoes, wash and dry their hands, put on and take off their coat, and ask for help.

Try a routine. Routines brings security, so now more than ever, they are really important. Try getting back to a somewhat normal routine at home, particularly around bedtime and waking up time. Ensuring a healthy amount of sleep as well as exercise will support your child`s health and well-being in school. To reduce stress, keep routines relaxed and playful.

Play, play and more play! In play, children have many opportunities to learn skills that can support them when they start school. Play helps to enrich your child`s learning as they develop and master expression, confidence, creative thinking and problem solving. Playing games with family members can help your child develop social skills, as well as learn about team work, taking turns and negotiation. Role play using teddies and dolls allows children to explore the experience. Acting out what starting school might be like helps your child make sense of this milestone they are about to embark on.

This article was contributed by ABC Start Right, a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.