Preparing for the first day
1. Come to an open day
An Open Day is a great chance for you to walk around the school and garden with your child or sit and play for a while. Familiarity with the school and teacher will make settling in much easier. The first few days or weeks of school are usually shorter to get your child used to the routine of being dropped off and collected. If your child is particularly shy or quiet you might like to have a home visit. This is the perfect time for parents to share their child’s individual needs, likes, dislikes and routine.
2. Keep your child well informed
Some children may be assured by their parent’s explanation of the process of school. Brief reminders from time to time over the preceding week about how they will be starting school soon can be very helpful. We describe our day as "one play, one snack, one more play then home". This may be helpful for you to use while explaining what school is. Be sure to use your own judgement of your child's temperament as sometimes dwelling too much on the upcoming event can actually create fear. A little conversation is necessary but be careful not to over do it.
3. Don't worry
During the settling-in period your child may be very anxious and may cry as you leave. This is completely normal especially if they have never been in such a setting. Explaining the procedure over several days before the event can pre-empt this reaction. Explain how they will stay and play for a few minutes while you go to the shop/for a walk/read a book. Give an example of something you will do when you return “when I come back then we will go to the park”. Some parents give their child a photo or hair bobbin to help them feel secure while apart. It can help them feel close and gives some comfort. If you feel that your child will have trouble settling-in then get in touch sooner rather than later. There is a lot you can do to help in the months before starting. Don't just hope for the best, get in touch and we can help!
4. Don't be sneaky
You must never sneak away as your child will lose trust in you and will become even more anxious. When you say goodbye you must then leave promptly (the hard part – we know). It’s best not to come into the classroom at drop off time as many parents/siblings playing and chatting makes it very difficult for children whose parents have already left, not to mention the noise level and chaos it creates. Parents who linger (or return to look in the window) actually unsettle everyone! Children are very perceptive and can sense your apprehension.
5. Use your words carefully
Be positive - don’t ask them if they’re going to be ok, or if they’re going to cry!! (yes, parents have said this). Be consistent – follow through with what you say, “when we get to the door you can go play”… don’t extend it into one more minute then one more minute and then one more hug and one more kiss etc etc. If your child has never been apart from you don't wait until the first day of school for practice.
6. Be on time
For the first few weeks try to arrive promptly so your child will be able to settle-in at the same time as the others. Wait until the queue at the door has eased so the departure isn’t too drawn out for your child. When teachers can swiftly get to play or story time it eases stress for the children. Teachers will ensure that your child is kept busy and will phone if he does not settle. Try to keep to a similar routine each day for the first few weeks as this will make your child feel secure (eg. always the same parent dropping off / get your child involved in the routine of putting lunch box in their bag / sing the same song in the car on the way).
7. Transitional objects
Items from home (blankies, favourite teddies or toys) can help your child feel secure. These should be permitted in schools. Expensive toys aren’t usually a good idea and don’t be surprised if the toys can’t be found at home time but they usually turn up the next day. So don’t bring something your child needs to sleep, is precious or valuable. In the first few weeks family photos are usually displayed on the wall to give your child a sense of belonging and security. Don’t forget to provide these pictures when the school asks for them. Above all remember that this process is hard on you too but that before you know it they will be running through the door without any goodbyes!