The Tús Nua Project, which focuses on promoting the benefits of pre-school and supporting children and parents with the transition into pre-school, has published the following tips for parents of children starting pre-school this September.
Sending your child to pre-school for the first time can be a stressful time for children and parents alike. Whether this is your child’s first time away from home or whether your child is used to a babysitter or a childcare experience, a child’s first experience in a formal educational setting is an important first step towards a lifetime of education. Here are some tips for starting off the school year on the right foot.
What to do before the first day...
Tell your child exactly what is going to happen: As adults, we know what pre-school will be like. Children do not. Tell your child that pre-school is for “big boys and girls” and their teachers. Tell your child that he is going to eat in school and discuss what your child would like to have in his lunchbox. Generally talk about things your child will do in school: play with toys, paint, draw, colour, play outside, etc. Let your child know that school is “fun.”
Visit Your Child’s New School Together With Your Child: If the school is near your house, pass on an occasional outing and show your child where he will go to school. By the time your child goes in the doors regularly, the building will already be familiar
Arrange Playdates With Children That Will Be In Your Child’s Class: The more familiar faces your child sees in school, the better. If you know other children in the area that will be in your child’s class, invite them over to your house to play.
Tell Your Child Who His/Her Teacher Will Be: Try and find out the teacher’s name in advance and tell your child. Say, for example that, “When you get to school, Bernie will be your teacher and Steven, Karen, and Michelle will be there to play with.”
Purchase A Lunchbox/Schoolbag Together With Your Child: For most pre-schools, your child will need to bring some sort of bag to school each day. If possible, let your child pick out the bag/lunch box.
Make Sure Your Child knows who will be collecting him/her: It is important that your child knows who will be collecting them from pre-school as they will be anticipating this and they will be secure about whose face they are looking for at the end of the day.
What to do (or not do) on the first day...
Pack Your Child’s Lunchbox/Schoolbag Together With Your Child: If you are supposed to send food, ask your child what he wants and send in foods you know that they will be happy with, especially at the beginning. It is useful to pack a change of clothes such as trousers, socks, underwear, t-shirt in case of an accident or spillage.
Dress your child in old, comfortable clothes: In Pre-school the children will be engaging in messy play, outdoor play, dancing etc so it is important that they are comfortable in what they wear. Their clothes will also get messy so it is best not to buy good new clothes that they will try to keep clean.
Prepare your child for drop off: When you are dropping your child to pre-school it can be helpful to tell them where you are going or what you will doing and what time you will collect them e.g. Daddy is going to the shop and will be back to collect you at 12 o’ clock. The child is then reassured that you will be back and if he/she asks the teacher, she/he can tell your child the same thing.
Dropping off: It is not recommended by pre-school teachers that parent’s sneak out while their child is distracted as this can cause them to be upset when they realise you are gone. At the same time it is also best not to prolong the separation process. The most effective approach is to bring your child into the service and try to settle them with a toy or with the teacher. Once they are comfortable let them know that you are going and when you will be back If they get a little upset when you leave ask the pre-school to ring you when he/she settles or feel free to ring them at any time.
Try Not To Be Upset If Your Child Cries: Of course, it’s always upsetting if your child seems upset. However, this will pass once your child settles in so try to stick with it. Many children do not cry at all for the first few days and only in the second week or so get upset. Again, it is important to stay consistent and continue to follow the tips above.
If Possible, Have A Parent Pick The Child Up On The First Day Obviously, this is not always possible, but if it can be arranged, it makes the end of the first day more exciting when Mommy or Daddy comes personally. The ideal situation for a child that will be picked up by a babysitter is for the parent and the babysitter to come on the first day. This way, the child sees that Mommy and Daddy appreciate the importance of the first day and sees who will actually be picking him up on a regular basis. If you can not arrange this, don’t worry. Thousands of children are picked up by babysitters on their first day and are fine.
Try to be on time Pick Up On The First Day: Make sure that as soon as parents are allowed in the room - you are there. It can sometimes upset a child if all the other children are collected and they are still waiting.
Some children are happy and well-adjusted at school after three minutes and for others it can take three months. If your child adjusts immediately - consider yourself lucky. If not, do not worry. Many children take several months until the transition is complete. Remember every child is different and some may settle quicker and easier than others. Communication with your child’s teacher will help you to support your child to settle and will ease any worry that you may be feeling also. If you are at all concerned, speak to your child’s teacher and see if there is anything in particular that seems to be bothering your child in school. Rest assured, the day will come, sooner or later, when your child will run into school with barely a glance backwards, looking forward to the exciting day ahead!