YOUR LITTLE ONE’S INTRODUCTION TO PREP CAN SEEM EQUAL PARTS ANXIETY INDUCING AND EXCITING.
It’s important to be prepared for a range of emotions from both yourself as parents and carers as well as from your child. Finding the right school for your family and being prepared to support your little one’s emotional needs can make the process much easier than you may think.
MAKING THE TRANSITION
Parents should work in partnership with their chosen school to make this big step much less daunting. One of the best ways to do this is through a transition program, which can contribute to student learning improvement and social development if the program is run successfully. A transition program offers families and schools the opportunity to get to know one another and brings the entire family on the journey from enrolment right through to the first year. The program usually involves a one-hour session each week for a period of five to eight weeks and allows the Prep students to see inside the classrooms, participate in different activities, tour the library and other areas of the school and meet the teachers. It gives your child the chance to build relationships with teachers and peers, as well as feel comfortable, confident and supported in their new learning environment.
Another way to prepare your preppy is to engage in positive conversations about school. This provides your little ones with an understanding of what to expect. You can start to mention big school, school uniforms and how proud you are of them or involve school talk in playtime at home.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
There are a lot of things in Prep that children are expected to do themselves such as putting on their shoes and socks, packing and unpacking their bag at the start and end of school, opening their lunch boxes (and containers), going to the toilet alone and washing their hands. Practise doing these things at home to ensure your child is confident and comfortable with each task. GAME ON! The Queensland Government offers a ‘Starting School Game’, which is available to download online and includes games and information encouraging parents and kids to talk about starting school in a playful way. If you find your child is overwhelmed or worried about starting Prep, this is a fun way to get them accustomed to the idea.
PLAY THE PART
Does your child enjoy pretend or imaginative play It’s another great way to prepare them for this new environment is to ‘play’ school. Take turns being the teacher and the student and set up stuffed animals to be other students in the class. Practise taking the roll in the mornings, reading aloud, having lunch and doing show and tell. This can help them get used to the language used and the expectations in the classroom.
While some kids are more than ready for big school, other kids might not be so sure. Both reactions to starting Prep are perfectly normal. If your child is resisting the start of school, then here are a few ways to handle their objections.
“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”
Make sure your child has the chance to be heard. Get down on their level or bring them up to your level so you are eye-to-eye. Ask them what they are concerned about. Reassure them that their feelings are valid rather than dismissing how they are feeling. Not knowing anyone or not fitting in may be worrying them. You can comfort them by letting them know their classmates will be feeling the same way and will want to make new friends, too. You could explain their pre- Prep transition days will give them the chance to meet new friends.
“I WANT TO STAY HOME.”
Home is safe and fun. Home is where all the toys and all the comfort objects live. It’s no wonder many kids prefer to be home over anywhere else. But staying home all day every day is no longer an option. Explain to your child that everyone must go to school. Then suggest an activity they can do once they get home to look forward to.
“I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE YOU.”
It can be so difficult to see your little one upset at drop off. If you reassure them and prepare for how they may react, it will help you respond to the situation. Kids Matter recommends learning from other transition periods and tailoring an approach that suits your little one’s temperament. For example, think about a time your child experienced another transition period. What approach helped them through this stage? If you have time you may volunteer in your child’s class one morning a week. This can give your child a chance to see you in the school environment and can make drop off for that day a little easier.
PREP AND BEYOND
Starting Prep is not just about the first day of school. It’s setting your child up for a smooth transition from early learning to a life of education. Talk to your child’s teacher often. Make sure your child is settling in well, is understanding the material and is confident. Schools see education as a partnership between schools and families. The school community welcomes parents and carers as members.
FOR MORE ADVICE & TIPS
To help with this transition, like the Facebook page ‘BePrepped4Prep’, a service initiative for all families.
Find out if your child is ready for prep here.
Stephanie Meekings is a Digital Media Officer at Cairns Catholic Education