Q: My daughter had separation anxiety when she started kindergarten and refused to go to school for a few months. How can I prevent the same from happening when she starts Primary 1?
A: I can understand your mixed emotions on your daughter starting to receive formal schooling. Here are some expert tips that I have collated from various parenting sites on how to help her adapt to the new routine and school environment.
Share your own experience of starting school with your child, such as who your favourite teachers were and who your best friend in Primary 1 was.
Ask what she’s looking forward to Maybe it will be the new friends she will make or perhaps she hopes to catch up with some friends from kindergarten who will be attending the same school.
Familiarise her with new school environment It would be helpful to attend the school orientation programme if you have not already done so, or accompany her on her first day of school. Walk around the school and familiarise your child with the important areas, such as the car or school bus drop-off point, the assembly hall, toilets, canteen and general office.
Explain basic school rules such as putting up her hand to ask to go to the toilet and doing what the teacher asks.
Stay a while to ensure she feels secure, but once she has settled in, show her where you will meet her at the end of the school day and bid her goodbye. Make sure you arrive on time to pick up her at the end of the school day.
Encourage her to talk about her day – about her teacher, the friends she made and the canteen food.
Develop a routine Teach her how to read the lesson timetable. Show her how to pack her schoolbag, based on the subjects shown in the timetable. Pack a change of clothes in a plastic bag and let her know they’re there in case of accidents. It would also be useful to plan an after-school routine for your child, such as setting aside time for lunch, homework and play. At home, set aside a specific area for her to keep her schoolbooks and materials.
Teach her to manage pocket money Decide how much you are going to give her daily and show her how to keep it safe and how to use it for recess, stationery and books. Click here for more tips.
Get to know her form teacher and the teacher’s preferred times and means of communication. If you have any concerns, raise them early to prevent them from developing into bigger problems.
The school and teachers usually relay information to parents through the children, through written and verbal instructions in class. Check these forms regularly and let your child know the importance of relaying the information, by passing on the forms or writing the instructions in her student diary.
Join the parents support group Being involved keeps you updated on events in the school and provides you and your child with opportunities to have shared experiences and conversations.
It is normal to feel anxious, but remember that your child can easily pick up on your emotions. Give her lots of love and support. Be excited and enthusiastic about her starting school. This sends her the positive message that school is exciting and that she will cope and have fun.
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.
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