Starting primary school is a big, and stressful, milestone for kids and parents. And it’s also a crucial moment for a child’s long-term development.
“There’s research that supports that the experiences in the early years of a child’s development affects the long-term educational outcomes,” says Carrie Panozzo, who coordinates the Transition To School Program in the Illawarra region of NSW. “These experiences directly influence their social, emotional and educational outcomes in the long-term.”
The aim of this program, like many around the country, is to raise awareness about the importance of transitioning to school through community events, and sharing educational resources to families. “A lot of children don’t attend early childhood services so it gives an idea for how families can encourage that development with experiences in the home.”
There’s research that supports that the experiences in the early years of a child’s development affects the long-term educational outcomes.
According to Panozzo, one of the biggest challenges school-starters face is getting used to a much bigger, overwhelming world. “There are a lot more adults that they need to interact with and develop relationships,” she explains. “And the physical environment; there are a lot more buildings, and they are much bigger. Children have to get used to the toilets, the canteen, the office, the library.”
In pre-school or early childcare environments children have a lot more control and education is very “play-based,” says Panozzo. “When they get to school, it’s a lot more teacher-directed. They’re given instructions that they’re encouraged to follow, and that type of learning can be very different.”
The best thing that parents can do to equip their child for school is to communicate, especially for children from diverse cultural backgrounds. “Communication is really important between early childhood educators, the family and the school, so the school has a good understanding of the child’s cultural background and learning requirements,” Panozzo says.
Parents should also be mindful that it’s usually the simple things that cause the most stress to kids.
Schools need to be made aware of “what’s important to that family, things that may be encouraged at home, like sharing food – in a family setting that may be really valued whereas at school, it’s not encouraged.”
Parents should also be mindful that it’s usually the simple things that cause the most stress to kids. “It can be the simple things that cause the anxiety and if they feel in control and capable of being able to do those things, then their anxiety may be reduced,”Panozzo explains. It’s important to talk through potentially stressful situations (like what to do if they need to go to the bathroom during class time) beforehand.
Read on for some more tips for making your child’s school-starting experience as smooth as possible.
-Help familiarise your child with the school environment and travelling to school procedure. Take regular walks or drives past the school.
-In the weeks leading up to school, establish a morning and night time routine.
-Arrange play dates with other children going to the same school.
-Ensure your child wears in their school shoes before the first day – Velcro shoes are easier to manage.
-Encourage your child to wear their uniform at home before starting school – it’s important their able to manage zippers and buttons when they go to the toilet.
-Talk to your child about what they should do if they have a toileting accident and put a spare set of labelled clothes in the school bag, including underwear and socks.
-Purchase a lunch box and drink bottle that is easy for your child to open independently and encourage them to use them to practice using these before their first day.
-Discuss with your child any possible scenarios that may occur at school and solve solutions together.