With hundreds of thousands of little children entering school for the first time this month, whether it be a pre-primary or Grade R or 1 facility, it is useful to know what to expect as a parent, how to manage the separation and how to make this transition easier for everyone concerned.
For the pre-schooler this school experience may be the first time that a child has been separated from the primary caregiver. We recommend that children, along with a caregiver, drop in for a short visit from time to time for a few months before actually starting school in January. These little ones then become familiar with the environment and the routine of the school morning, engage with the adults and teachers at the school so that faces are familiar and the beginnings of a relationship established, and are exposed to the various activities both indoors and out so that they have an idea of what fun can be had at school.
On the big day we recommend that parents drop and go, that the goodbyes not be protracted as the children then sense the parent’s anxiety and they too then get anxious and reluctant to let go. It is important that the whole school experience start on a positive note so we call parents if their child is unhappy and crying for an extended period of time and arrange for earlier collection until they are completely settled. Time spent at school each morning can gradually be extended until each little one is able to get through a full school morning. Make school attendance a non- negotiable right from the beginning.
Don’t tell them how much you are going to miss them
Prepare your child for this transition period by talking them through what is going to happen. Focus on all the wonderful things that the child is going to experience at school, things that don’t and can’t happen at home and always be positive:
- Don’t tell them how much you are going to miss them.
- Guard against over preparing your child – just stick to the basics .
- Always reassure them as you leave that you will be back to collect them after story time.
- A good idea is to make a little cloth talisman for the child to wear and fill it with kisses so that the child can access those kisses during the morning when they feel they are missing you just by holding the cloth to their cheek.
- Speak to your child’s teacher so they too know a little about who your child is.
Entering into the foundation phase at Grade R or 1 can be managed in the same way with discussion around the structure of the school day as well as what to do and where to go if they have a problem. Share your own school experiences. If the school arranges for an orientation period prior to children starting school, make the effort and attend.
Be excited yourself and your child will sense this and will start school with a positive attitude.