Friday, January 15, 2010

Start school in a positive way

First day jitters can hit all of us when we start a new job, join a class or do public speaking, but for children starting school it can be especially nerve-wracking

It’s an exciting time for many families across Far North Queensland as their children prepare for the first day of school.
While my daughter has another year to go before reaching this milestone, I am certainly familiar with the separation anxiety that exists with some children.
They may be just as excited as you are about packing their new school bag with books and pencils, and trying on their new school uniform, but when the day finally arrives, the thought of being left there by Mum and Dad is somewhat frightening.
Here are some great tips to help you and your child cope with any anxiety on the big day.

In the years before they go to school, make sure your child has had some supervised time away from you.
This may be a day care or preschool experience or time with friends or relatives. Letting your children stay overnight at their grandparents or at a friend’s home occasionally develops more independence.
Talk to your child about going to school, about what they will learn and especially about positive experiences you remember from your first days of school.
Tell them about the fun they will have with other children, playing with books, puzzles, computers, science activities, art, sports and play time.
Be careful about older children or adults who might tease your child about having to go to school.
Some people may think it’s funny to say “Too bad, you have to go to school” or other teasing remarks that may scare your child or make them feel that school is a horrible place.
Take your child to school open days if these are arranged, as this allows them to meet their teacher and have time to explore the classroom, playground and important things like where the toilets are located.
Always get them involved in buying their school supplies as well as putting name tags on books, hats, clothing, and so on.
Make sure your child knows that every child goes to school and that schools are wonderful places to learn.
It is your child’s job to be a student, just like it is your job to go to work.
Let them know (or have them tell you) what will happen on the first day.
For example: “Tomorrow I’ll be taking to you to school so that you can be in
Mrs Smith’s class. It will be lots of fun.
What time do you think we should leave? Let's make sure we've got
everything ready in your backpack.
When we get to school, we’ll go to the classroom and then you can go
in and say hello to Mrs Smith. She’ll be so happy to see you. I’ll go to work
while you have fun at school, and then I’ll pick you up just where I showed you. When we get home, we’ll call Grandma and tell her all about your school day.”
If your child has a few tears when you are leaving the classroom, don’t worry. With most children the tears disappear once Mum or Dad leave.
My motto at my daughter's day care centre is “out of sight, out of mind”.
Once you are gone and they are distracted by toys and games, those tears quickly turn into smiles.
If your child is one of those who clings to you and cries at the top of his or her lungs about your leaving, the best thing to do is to leave quickly.
The longer you stay, the harder the child will cry and this can be very distressing for the parents as well.
Some of these children will continue this behaviour for several days or even weeks but don't be embarrassed or get upset at your child. Many children who appear very mature and self-sufficient still experience separation anxiety.
Be assured that if your child continues to be upset after you leave and the teacher cannot calm them down, someone from the school will call and let you know.
Sometimes this can be solved by giving the child a special job to do in the classroom or a special friend for a partner. It’s important that the parents talk to the teachers if they are concerned.
For extreme cases, you can try having the child go to an administrator’s office to work on a computer or read books for a while, then when the child is ready, a teacher will take them to the classroom.
Some schools encourage parents to stay a while and participate in the morning’s activities. This is also a great way to introduce parents to some of the year’s curriculum.
The vast majority of children experience no difficulties with attending school. They are looking forward to “being grown up”, or for some children: “You have to go to school to learn to read. So that’s why I’m here.”
And finally, always remain in contact with your child’s teacher so you know how they are progressing throughout the year.


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