Every year kids start school—starting school for the first time is a very big change in everyone’s life. School is about making adjustments, building relationships, adapting to new routines, new rules and solving conflicts. Some children manage this easily while others will require little extra preparation, beyond common sense, before entering a new school. Transition to school depends on the child’s temperament, personality-style. Some breeze into the classroom with a quick goodbye, while others enter protesting from day one, some meltdown the instant they are picked. Some may even experience, going to school as a rejection, in cases where the younger sibling stays home with a parent or caregiver.

The child’s reactions to starting school varies so does the reasons, the major one being separation anxiety, claim educators. Separation anxiety is common for both parents and children and are the result of the child going from a safe and secured environment to a public place (school) away from the loved ones. Going to school first time is big step for a little child. It may be traumatic for the child to say goodbye to their parents. Very young children may fail to understand that the separation is temporary. On the other hand it’s important for parents to acknowledge these feelings directly and sympathetically and help the child deal with them.

It’s possible to make the transition from home to school easy for the children with a little planning ahead of time. Parents may start preparing by gathering relevant information on the school website to be aware of the school policies and systems. Enquiring ahead of time from school, their policy of dropping the kids on the first day helps the child know what to expect. Parents may involve the child shopping for supplies and uniform ready before time. Being involved in the process helps the child take ownership of the transition. Visiting the school with your child before his first day helps create familiarity. Most school will be happy to let the child come and explore. If possible visit the classroom, meet the teacher, and see the office, library and other areas of the school. Talk about the school day – recess, lunchtime, going home time. Starting school is an excellent way to establish various routines at home like getting to bed in time, starting the day with healthy breakfast and setting blocks of time for play, work and activities. Systems and routine helps provide a structure and helps the child feel secure. Reading books with your child about school experiences, school settings and how other children relate to their new surroundings helps the child get ready for his new move. Sharing pictures of yourself, spouse and older siblings’ experience of their first day at school helps the child connect with going to school. It’s been observed that children with older sibling adjust faster as they are aware of the concept of “going to school”.

During the times of transition, the children tend to be at their most fragile state. This may not be the time to introduce change in their lives. Giving them space and time to unwind after school may help the child settle faster in school. If something or someone at school upsets your child, discuss with concerned people, dismissing it could turn it into something bigger. Informing your child where exactly you will be when the school finishes, will help your child go through the day without worrying of how he will go back home.

At times, complains like of stomach aches, difficulty sleeping, regression, bed wetting, clinginess, refusal to go to school, unusually more teary or throwing tantrums are seen in children with start of school.

Lastly, with a little preparation ahead of time it’s possible to have a positive transition from home to school for your child.

Successful transitions are challenging and therefore rewarding.

Body and Soul now has on board, Ms Vinti Mittal, counsellor who specialises in working with pre-school children. Call on +65 6779 0660 to make an appointment with her.

Vinti Mittal – Child Counsellor

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