How families can support their child when they start school
Starting school is a big step in your child’s life. Many children feel excited but also may feel anxious. It is a big change and even if your child has been at preschool, the new routines and expectations can fatigue your child.
We asked families to share how they supported their child in the first term of school.
Minimise therapy and after school activities
Think about the first term of school and what activities your child attends outside of school hours. It could be swimming, dance classes, or therapy sessions. When kids start school, it can be really tiring. It’s a good idea to cut back all after school activities for the first few months, while kids adjust to school life.
Create a visual schedule or use a daily calendar so your child knows what to expect each day, including before and after school activities. Speak to school to find out what activities happen each day, like sport on Monday, Speech therapy before school Tuesday, music on Wednesday, after school care on Thursday, etc.
School pick up
Make sure your child knows where you are picking them up from. Let the teacher know too in case your child forgets.
It’s a new environment and even if they are excited about school, it can still be overwhelming. Some families reported their child was fine for the first few days, and then was upset when they realised they had to go to school five days a week.
Some kids can experience anxiety when separating from their caregiver at stop-off. Here are tips on understanding separation anxiety and supporting your child. https://www.childpsychologist.com.au/resources/separation-anxiety
Children often receive homework a few weeks after starting school. Speak to your child’s teacher to find out what homework will be set by the school and discuss if adjustments are needed. You might also find that the cognitive demand of doing homework is too much for your child after a day of school; if this is the case, speak to your teacher about reducing the homework expectations.
Establish a homework routine at home. Speak to your child to explain what homework is and how it helps. Create a routine, for example, you might spend 10 minutes on Monday to Thursday practising maths and spelling and 10 minutes each evening reading. Visual schedules can be helpful.
Children are the most rested when they have a steady sleep schedule. Try to keep their bedtime and wake time consistent throughout the week and the weekend. Establishing a relaxing nightly routine for your child before bed can be helpful. You might find that this is the time your child wants to share all about their day, if this is the case, allow for it by starting the bedtime routine earlier.
Think about your therapy schedule.
Do you currently do therapy after school hours? Are you speaking with your therapy time and requesting times for next year? After school sessions may be exhausting for your child. Consider weekend sessions, but get in early as these are in demand. Maybe before school sessions could work if you have an early riser? You could practice self care skills, like dressing, or following the schedule. Also consider a break altogether during term, and limit therapy sessions to the school holidays.
Your child is exposed to a rich learning environment and many discussions with their peers. You might notice that your child has a burst of new language or other skills in the first few months of starting school.
It is typical that friendships change over the first term. Your child is getting to know the other students and finding friends that have similar interests. If you are concerned that your child isn’t making any friends, speak to the teacher to find out if they have noticed a child that has similar interests and if they could buddy them up. Tips on supporting school-aged friendships: https://www.scholastic.com/parents/family-life/social-emotional-learning/development-milestones/making-friends-kindergarten.html
Meeting other school families
A great way to meet other families is to visit local parks after school. Some schools have a Facebook group for school families or WhatsApp chat for Year levels. If you are unsure if your school has a communication channel for families, check with the school administration or P&C.
Circle of trust
Remind your child of the network of people that are safe for them to speak to if they have any questions, troubles or worries. Assure them that somebody will be able to help them.
Speaking to your child about their day
Don’t be surprised if your child says, “they did nothing and played with no-one”. This is very common for Kindy students. Some parents find it best to ask on the way home when their child is strapped into the car seat as they won’t walk away. Others found it helpful to ask while doing an activity, such as while drawing together.
“I thought my child wouldn’t be too tired because she went to preschool for 4 days, but she was exhausted. We stopped all therapies and out of school activities for the first term. We just let her have lots of down-time in the afternoons with no expectations.”Parent