Moving on… to Big School
Moving on means change and change can be hard. It can also be exciting and a little bit scary. You can help your child to make these very big life changing moves easier with a little bit a planning and preparation.
This is your child’s first step into formal education and it marks a new stage in their little lives and a mile stone to be marked and remembered. Your experience of formal education may have been very positive and you may have loved school and done very well. But alas this is not everyone’s story and if you are a parent who has very mixed emotions about their school days or remembers them in a negative light you are probably entering this stage of your child’s life with even more anxiety than other parents. Take a deep breath and relax as many things have changed about school and there is a fair chance your son/daughter will have a far more positive experience than your have had. There are lots of things you can do to ensure that your child gets off to a really good start and as they say a good start is half the work.
Take a little time to remember your school days and try to pick out some positive memories of your time in school, small kindness shown to you by a teacher or other adult, something you enjoyed doing at school, if not maths or Irish maybe history, baking, basketball or the school concert. These positive stories or little memories are the best place to start introducing the big school to your young child, retelling little funny incidents by portraying school in a positive light to your young child. Hold back from telling the negative stories or funny incidents where you were in trouble for some misdemeanour as these could easily cause your child added stress and anxiety.
If this is your first child they may have very little understanding of what the word school means and often we forget to explain it. If you have older children a young child will often have a better understanding of the concept as they maybe in and out of the school daily collecting and dropping.
Take a little time to explain the idea of school;
- The kind of things they will learn, (keep it very simple)
- What the teacher does
- How break time work
- Explain about bells ringing and what they mean
We take the language of school very much for granted as we have all been there but there are lots of new words and ideas children will need to come to terms with. Looking at a simple book about starting school might be a good way to introduce some of these ideas.
One of the most useful ways to introduce your child to their big school is to take them for a visit. Many schools organise some sort of open day for new students in June before the summer holidays. It is an excellent idea to avail of this opportunity if you can. If you happen to miss this opportunity why not organise your own visit by ringing the school secretary and arranging a time to meet the junior infants’ teacher.
Showing your child simple things like;
- Their classroom
- Where the toilets are
- Where they will hang their coat and put their lunchbox
- Where they will eat their lunch
These simple things all help ease you child little worries. If you can organise for them to see the children coming out of school and being collected by their parent this helps alleviate some of their worries about you coming back to collect them, discussing where you will stand while you are waiting for them to come out and is a small way reassuring them you will be there when their day is over.
Buying uniforms, school bags and lunch boxes are enjoyable experiences but try keep them low key and not make too much of them. If you happen to be from the family where every aunt, granny and cousin will want to see the child in their school uniform before s/he starts try to keep this to a minimum. Keep any of the hype or excitement to a minimum and make it as normal and everyday as possible.
In your conversations with your child about big school reassure the child about their ability to be able to cope with new places, people and learning. Remind them of times when they started other new things e.g. preschool and how enjoyable that has been, how they enjoy learning new skills and new information about the world around them. They are going to have fun and school is an interesting, enjoyable place.
Good luck with this new phase of your child’s life , its exciting and challenging for all concerned but with some thought and preparation it will be a positive experience.
Written by Aileen Kelleher, ABC Start Right