By Kim Norton
So your little one is all grown up and ready for “big”school? When did that happen? It only seems like yesterday that you were holding their little hand on that nervous drive home from hospital, right? You have done the research and the planning and now their first day of primary school is looming, and that is a huge transition for the whole family.
For our first-time-mums this transition can bring up all sorts of feelings and questions like “What will I do with my time now?” For our Mum’s that have been there once or twice before, there are often cries of “Thank God”. Nonetheless, even our most even-tempered of children and relaxed families will be feeling some sort of nerves. The change that comes with this transition is inevitable and change can bring about a whole range of stress and anxiety-related issues that can be easily managed if we are aware of them and prepare adequately.
Below are some tips to make the transition a little easier for the whole family.
Make sure they are familiar with the school.
If your child has been attending public kindergarten then they may have had an excursion to see their new primary school. If not, then make a trip to the school so that you can show them around. Most schools will have their offices open about one week prior to school starting so contact them to see if they can arrange a tour for you and your child. Make sure your child knows where their classroom is, where the toilets are, the office and what their teachers name is for a good start. Also show your child where you will drop them off and pick them up each day (or where they are to go for After School Care if appropriate).
If your child is attending a primary school where they know very few or no other students, try and arrange a play date with other kids in your child’s class. This can be beneficial for both of you so that you too can meet other parents and there may be even a chance to talk about car pooling and/or sharing after school care.
In a school of 300+ kids all wearing the same uniform and carrying the same school bag, items are easily misplaced or lost. Purchase a bag tag or other identifying item to attach to their school bag so it can be easily spotted. If they are able to choose their own bag and lunch box then let them. Make it a fun day out shopping for these items, and get them to help you label them all.
Slowly bring the bedtime hour back.
If you have been letting your kids stay up later over the holidays bring their bedtime back slowly. Start about 5 days before the return of school and just make their bedtime 10-15 minutes earlier each night and their waking time by the same amount of time each morning until they are at their normal school time sleep schedule.
Bring back their bedtime routine or if you have never had one, think about starting one. Kids thrive and suffer a lot less stress and anxiety when they can predict what is about to happen. Develop a routine or routines for different nights of the week and then stick to it/them. For our kids that really struggle with getting to sleep, try some light exercise after dinner to get rid of any last minute angst before the wind down for bed begins.
Don’t leave everything to the last minute!
Pack their school bag and have their uniforms washed and ready to go a couple of days in advance. Have the school lunch and snack ingredients on hand and ready to go. Watching you rush around and listening to you stress the day before will not ensure a calm transition to school for anyone.
Listen to their concerns and worries.
Don’t dismiss their concerns as trivial and don’t push them aside so that YOU do not have to worry about them. Listen and together, come up with a list of strategies to help them cope; for example, breathing exercises, meditation, counselling. Check in with them as often as necessary to see if these strategies are working for them.
Be positive and set a positive example.
Try talking positively about your experiences at primary school and, if there are older siblings, encourage them to do the same. An older brother or sister might also be a good “go to” person if your younger child feels they need some extra support during the recess or lunch break so ask them if they are willing to play that role.
Finally, enjoy this time.
You have done well, now savour the moment and enjoy as before you know it, we will be talking about secondary school and that is just a different kettle of fish!
Kim is the founder of Rainbow Light Therapies and is a Holistic Counsellor specialising in stress and anxiety management for kids, teens and adults.
Kim provides a unique, intuitive and individualised therapy approach through individual, small group and family counselling sessions both online and at her studio in Langwarrin.
Also working with special needs kids, Kim runs sessions and workshops for people of all abilities on various topics throughout the year.