9 Tips To Help Your Child Start School Successfully

Bob Perry and Sue Dockett provide a guide for parents and carers as to what can you do to help your child start school successfully.

Three key factors to bear in mind as you and your child prepare for them to start school:

  • Transition to school is about building positive relationships among the various people involved.
  • Transition to school is a process not an event.
  • Transition to school is about reciprocal communication with, and respect for, everyone involved.
  • There are many steps that families can take to help their child make a successful transition to school. Some of these are required before the child starts school and some are ongoing.

1) Talk with your child about why children go to school and ask them what they think it will be like

Be prepared to answer your child’s questions about school honestly. Tell them that they will learn things (but remind them that this will take time), they will have fun, they will meet and play with lots of friends, and that they will have to do some work. Ask your child to tell you what they think school will be like. Some children will like to draw their thoughts. Listen to their concerns and respond to them.

2) Whenever you visit a school, take your child with you

Both you and your child want to find out about the people in the school, the facilities and how the school works. Take your child with you when you go to talk to principals or teachers. It is important to see how school staff interact with you, but it is much more important to see how they interact with your child. In any case, children have the right to be involved in decisions affecting them.

3) Build relationships with the people who will be part of your child’s first year of school

Help your child make friends (or at least become acquainted) with children who will be their classmates. Meet the teachers of your child’s class and get to know them so that if something does go wrong, you will feel comfortable talking directly with them. Tell these teachers what you would like them to know about your child and your family. Make sure that your child knows his or her teachers.

4) Encourage your child’s prior-to-school educator to send relevant information about your child to his or her prospective schoolteacher

Educators in your child’s prior-to-school settings will have extensive information about your child’s growth and development that will be of great interest and benefit to their schoolteacher. In some States and Territories, this information is not automatically transferred to the school, and parents/guardians must give permission before this transfer can occur. In others, an automatic transfer does occur. Check about this with the prior-to-school educator.

5) Have an up-to-date immunisation record for your child

You will need to show a copy of your child’s immunisation record to your child’s school before commencement.

6) Get involved in the community with other families whose children will be starting school

Your child’s prior-to-school teacher might be able to help you meet other families going to the same school. Participating in sporting groups and activities is a great way to meet people. The local library is likely to have storytime sessions. Seek out ways in which you can be involved in the school.

7) Make sure your child is comfortable with getting to and from school, is familiar with the school toilets and has other practical information

Your child needs to know what is going to happen, particularly after school is finished for the day. “Who will pick me up?”, “Is it my day for after school care?”, “Which bus do I catch?” are some of the important questions that need to be answered. School toilets worry many parents. Make sure your child knows how to use a public toilet, where to wash their hands and so on.

8) Do not go overboard about the importance of starting school

Most children in Australia start school and most do it very successfully. Talk about it and make it important, but it is probably unnecessary for the child to sleep in their school uniform or carry their school bag around the house for weeks before the first day of school. Be sensible in your expectations of school and try to ensure that your child has reasonable expectations – for example, it is highly unlikely that they will learn to read on Day One!

9) Make learning fun, not a chore

Whether before they start school or after, children need to see learning as a fun activity with which they wish to be engaged. If this disposition is part of home life, then children will have a much better chance of coping with the learning challenges they meet at school.

our_family_starting_schoolDerived from: Perry, B. & Dockett, S., Our family is starting school, Pademelon Press, Sydney, 2006.)