As a former principal of a primary school, I thought it would be helpful to share a few tips on how to prepare your child for the first day and week of primary school.
Prepare your child beforehand
Before the first day of school, parents can share with their children what school is like and what they can expect. Getting them happy and excited about school is half the battle won.
Go to the school’s website and explore it together.
Describe a school day, starting with how everyone sings the National Anthem in the morning, what recess time is like and what time school would get out.
Discuss school rules and regulations. For example, pupils may not eat in class and they should pay attention when the teacher is speaking.
Help your child understand that this is the start of his formal education and there are certain expectations.
For instance, children are required to study spelling in English and Mother Tongue every week.
Do train your child to know how to put on the school uniform, down to buttoning the shirt or blouse and tying his shoelaces.
When I was a teacher in a Primary 1 class, I found a few pupils struggling when they had to take off their physical education (PE) attire to put on their uniform.
Be there on the first day of school
Most parents take leave on the first day to settle their children in a new environment. It would be good if you could do so, even if your child is usually very independent.
There is a possibility that your Primary 1 child may be emotionally affected when he sees other parents or guardians around on the first day, while he does not have anyone.
If you are really unable to be there, I would encourage you to explain the reason to your child.
If you will be there on the first day, it is important to give clear instructions to your child as to where you will be at recess to watch him from afar, and when you will take him home.
Remember to give your Primary 1 child money to buy food from the canteen. I normally advise parents to give about $1.50 to $2.
As the price of canteen food does vary in schools, do check out the stalls and decide on the amount to give your child every day.
Stand at a distance and watch your child being guided by school-assigned buddies to buy food at recess.
Trust the school to manage this well, as it is best for your child to learn from his schoolmates.
At dismissal time, it is good to cooperate with the school by following instructions on how classes will be let out.
If you are driving, ensure you are there on time to build your Primary 1 child’s confidence in this daily routine.
For those using the school bus, the school would have a system to ensure that pupils are guided to board the right bus.
When the school bus arrives to drop off your child, be at the agreed pick-up point and welcome him home with a bright smile.
If your Primary 1 child’s school organises any talks or workshops on the first few days of school, do attend them as they would help you understand how you can support your child’s learning.
To your child, moving from kindergarten to Primary 1 is a big adjustment, so do spend time talking to him about the first few weeks of school. Some children would be more anxious than others.
Your child will be given a parent-child activity book. It contains parenting tips which include fun activities you can do with your child to help you both adjust smoothly to primary school life.
Last but not least, I would encourage you to join the parents’ support group, a network that would help you in this parenting journey.
Research shows that school-home partnerships for the purpose of helping a child realise his potential have many benefits.
I hope these few tips will help you to prepare your child for Primary 1. May you and your child have many happy and memorable days at school.
The writer was a principal for 18 years in Kheng Cheng School, Radin Mas Primary and South View Primary. She is a lead associate, focusing on partnerships and engagement, in the engagement and research division of the Ministry of Education.
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.