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16. 08. 2019

Getting ready for primary school

It's finally here! Holidays are ending and soon your preschooler will be going to primary school. Maybe you’re excited about your kid going to school; but maybe you are anxiously thinking about how your little one will cope. How can you prepare for such a thing? I am sure you've practised how to hold a pencil and maybe even bought various exercise sheets for preschoolers. That's definitely a good move. But I believe the most important preparation of all is the mental one. And that doesn't concern only kids, but also us – parents.

Many things are going to change for your child once they start going to primary school. They will have to sit at their desk, pay attention, focus on the lesson, and so on. A completely new environment, new obligations, and a new daily routine are waiting for them. They will have to respect new rules since their main activity at school will no longer be playing but learning, and they will meet new friends, including a new teacher in the classroom…

How can you prepare children for these changes?

Stop the anxious talk

Children mirror their parents. If the parents are anxious, and worrying themselves over how their child will or won’t cope with going to school, this anxiety usually transfers to the child as well. Without even realising it, we often say sentences full of anxiety:

‘I hope your teacher will be nice.’

‘I hope you'll have more friends than I did when I went to school.’

‘You'll see, maybe you'll enjoy learning.’

Sometimes, we even use school as a way of scaring children:

‘Just wait, at school, they will teach you what it means to keep your things organised.’

‘There won't be any of this playing around at school. You will actually have to do things there!’

Often, these worries stem from our own experience; oftentimes we heard the same sentences from our parents. But we have to realise that each one of us is unique. The fact that we were anxious about math, reading, or PE classes doesn't mean that our children will be, too.

Be positive and supportive

Let your child decide for themselves and find their favourite activities at school. Until then, change the words you use, remove worries from your head, and try to focus on supporting and motivating your child instead. Think about the good things school gave to you and what made you happy. If you turn your anxiety into support, you can be sure you've completed the first steps towards success:

‘I am really looking forward to you telling me all about the school!’

‘I can't wait for you to read me a bedtime story by yourself!’

‘You will meet so many new friends at school!’

‘Next summer, you'll be able to write a postcard to your grandparents by yourself!’

‘You will have a teacher who will tell you lots of fun facts. I am excited about all the things you are going to tell me!’

What to also remember

Maybe you've heard that mental experiences can be as strong as physical experiences. This means that imagining something in our head can be as powerful as experiencing it in real life. You can therefore help your child adapt to the new environment by describing to them what primary school is like, and what awaits them there.   

Talk about what the classroom will look like. You must have seen it when registering your child at the school, so try to stick to the reality that's waiting for them. Tell them they will have their own desk and chair, which will be the spot they return to every morning. Tell them they will sit at the desk next to a friend. Tell them there's going to be a whiteboard in the classroom and what it is for. Tell them there will also be a teacher in the classroom who will talk about many interesting things. He or she will teach them how to read (so they can read their favourite books), how to write (so they can write letters to family members on holiday), and that they will even sing together!

Your child trusts you unconditionally. Use this for helping them understand what is going to happen to them and why. Knowing the WHAT and WHY takes a great deal of the anxiety away and will make the first days at school much easier for your child. It will not be completely new for them – they talked about it a lot with their parents, after all.

Talk

Don't forget it's not just about the first school day. That's just the beginning. It's important to continue supporting and motivating your child. So find time daily to ask your child what they did at school that day, which friends they have, what new things they learned, etc. Children should know that it's interesting and important for you to know these things. At the same time, by asking these questions, you show that school is important and engaging, too.

Listen to troubles your children come home with and talk about everything. Your child needs to know they can rely on you, and that they can come to you anytime with anything. There's nothing more important than how your little one is doing at school and what's making them happy or troubled. That's the only way you can build a relationship full of trust.

Relax

In the beginning, your child is going to be under a lot of pressure. They have to follow a new daily regime since they cannot just stay at home with a caretaker. They have to get up at the same time and go to school every day, and learn new things all the time. That's why it's important to have plenty of rest and relaxation. You can do that by reading a book or listening to songs together.

Celebrate

Yes, celebrate! Celebrate your child's first day at school. Invite the grandparents too, and go to a confectionary, cinema, or just to the local playground to play.

Trust

Trust yourself – you can support your child and prepare them for what's waiting at primary school. Even though you can’t prepare for every little thing, simply trying your best is enough.

Trust the school – it's full of experts with rich experience who know what they are doing. Some things may not completely meet your expectations, but believe the teachers are doing their best to make your child happy and enthusiastic.

And lastly – trust that your child will do just fine. Maybe things won’t be 100% perfect, but very soon you’ll overcome all the obstacles because you will talk about everything together. 

So get excited and let's go to school!

Author: Michaela Juriga Zlesáková – mum, life coach, Lipa ambassador

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