The uniform has been fitted and my eldest is super excited about heading off to prep next year.
But me? Well, I fluctuate between sheer joy that I will have one less child on my hands during the day, denial that I have a school-aged child and outright sadness that she is growing up and will have her first taste of expanding her mind to the potential of the big, wide world.
While some kids have had separation from their parents through day care or kindy before they venture to prep, it’s still a huge transition for any family to undertake because they are there every. day. of. the. week.
There can also be some nerves for both your child and you, so here are some tips to help you get started at prep.
1. Visit the school
Take the opportunities provided to visit the school. It could be for an open day, to try on school uniforms or meet the teachers.
By physically being there, you are creating a familiarity and helping your student-to-be to orientate themselves. Something as simple as knowing where their classroom will be and how to get to the toilet from there can be reassuring.
2 .Talk about school
You can find a number of ways to start a conversation about school with your little one.
You can share information about the types of things they will do there and when you find out who their teacher is, mention their name so it becomes familiar to them.
This is also a good way to find out how they are feeling about it all and if there are any anxiety, you have a chance to work through them before the big day.
Keep a positive tone whenever you talk about the school, so your child picks up on a good vibe.
3. Play time!
Kids will be more relaxed about starting school if they know someone in their class. If you can organise a play date with a future classmate – do it!
It’s also nice for you to connect with other parents to build a support network at the school.
4. Practice makes perfect
Having a pretend school lunchtime at home makes for a fun game and also helps to train their little brains to know what to do when the bell sounds, even though their teachers will walk them through this for the first few weeks.
You can make a lunch and put it into their lunchbox so they can go to their bag, get their lunchbox out and practice opening lids or compartments by themselves.
If your child is not yet confident with going to the toilet, you can also dedicate some time to perfecting this together before they have to do it on their own.
You can also play dress ups so they can get used to putting on their uniform and changing for things like sports days and swimming carnivals.
5. Build trust
It is also a good idea to talk to your child about what they can do if they need help with something or if they don’t have anyone to play with.
Teachers juggle so many tasks throughout the day that sometimes small things go unnoticed, so if your preppie feels like they can talk to their teacher, they can have situations cleared up a lot faster.
Trust also means they will feel more secure staying at school by themselves.
6. The first day
When it comes to the first day, it is imperative to keep your emotions in check until your child is settled into class and you are out of sight.
Babies have in-built emotion detectors and these skills only increase as your child gets older. Any sign of anxiety or sadness on your part will be amplified in your child and will make the start to their first day more difficult. By all means, as soon as you turn that corner, let the tears flow freely!!
In the morning, you can help your new preppie to pack their school bag so they know where to find things like their lunchbox, hat and a change of clothes if they need it.
Try to be organised so that you are not rushing out the door and have plenty of time to allow your preppie to take everything in and start to process the new routine.
When you arrive at the school, you can spend a bit of time to settle your child into class, but many teachers prefer you to keep this to a minimum and as soon as your child feels secure, you can say a reassuring goodbye and then leave (so you can cry…).
Before you go, you can tell your new student where you will pick them up at the end of the school day.
Now, the hard part is over!
Make sure you chat about what they did each day and keep on top of any correspondence with the teacher to make sure they are always prepped and ready to go each school day.