Tips for parents with young children starting school in September

Starting a new school can be a daunting experience for both child and parent. You have sewn on all the nametapes, bought the school shoes and pumps, taken photos in their new school uniform, so you can embarrass them on their wedding day and bring a tear to their grandparent’s eyes, checked the drop off and pick up times so you won’t be late and walked them into their classroom, to set them off on the next exciting stage of their life.

Now you have to be aware of the systems, processes and educational objectives of the school you have chosen and to take into account that there is now a joint responsibility for your child’s educational development, where previously you were the one to decide on the timetable for the day’s activities, as well as the rules and expectations for behaviour.

Here are a few tips that might help you to adjust to this situation, whilst remaining fully engaged in your child’s development and education:

  • Read through any new parent literature that the school has provided you with which explains the rules and processes they follow. Knowing what the school expects of your child means you can support them by talking through anything they do not understand or are finding it hard to get to grips with. It is important that you and the school are ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ as mixed messages can be confusing for young children and cause insecurity.
  • As soon as you feel your child is ready to make his/her way to class by themselves in the morning, you must let them. This is important to develop confidence and independence.
  • Try not to act too protectively with regard to every tale that comes home relating the actions or words of other children. Learning to be part of a community in a classroom environment is important and there will always be children who your child does not get on with. Talk to them about their concerns and agree together how they might deal with any difficult situations which arise in future. Try to focus the conversation on those children who they do get on with and what they enjoy doing with their new friends. Make sure they know which adults are there at school to help them and therefore whom to approach if they have a worry or concern, but also remember that it is important not to encourage them to become a tell-tale.
  • Communication with the child’s teacher is important if you have any worries or concerns but try to trust the school if they reassure you that you have no cause to worry.
  • The first few months of school are very tiring as your child gets used to a new routine. Try to manage carefully their after school play dates and activities, to ensure that they are not becoming too tired. Ensure there is quiet time at weekends so they can re-charge their batteries.
  • Give your child lots of praise and encouragement. Take an interest in their day and what they have accomplished.
  • If they are born later in the academic year (i.e. have a summer birthday) try not to panic if they appear to be progressing at a slower rate than those children born earlier in the academic year. They will soon catch up and it is important to measure and praise their progress as an individual at this stage, rather than making comparisons with their peers.
  • Remember you still have an important role to play in supporting your child’s learning at home by listening to them read, reading to them, practicing writing and activities with numbers.