This article was originally published in the Family Matters magazine and has been republished here with their permission.
The signs blazing Back To School seem to be everywhere I look these days – a constant reminder that I’m one year away from sending my oldest off to “big kid’s school,” which is a bit scary (for both of us).
Victoria Horne, Shad Bay, knows how I feel. She’s even closer to that big moment with her daughter, Violet, who starts school this year. They attended the orientation, which she says was very helpful, but there are still some worries.
“I think I’m most nervous about her adjusting to the new routine,” Horne says, “Sometimes listening to new rules can be challenging when there are so many exciting and new things going on around you.”
Horne has been trying to help Violet get ready by visiting the school playground regularly, working on self-sufficiency skills, and increasing their stranger danger talks.
“[We’ve been] reminding her that she is never to go home with someone she doesn’t know, trust, and, most importantly, that doesn’t know our secret password,” Horne says.
Katrina Johnston is a primary teacher in Chester and has guided many families through the transition.
“Primary is a big step in a child's life and parents worry if their child is going to feel safe at school,” Johnston says, and shares some suggestions on how parents can help.
Explain to your child that the adults working at a school are safe adults.
Visit the school, especially if you missed orientation.
Go on practice rides on public transit if your child will be taking the bus
Talk about making, and being, a good friend
The other concern Johnston regularly sees from parents is how their child will handle the many new skills and routines introduced at school.
“They learn about language, what it means to be part of a group, how to follow directions, and many more things, “ she explains, and offers some skills to practice at home.
Language skills can be enhanced through conversations and reading, and by extending discussions with “what if” and “what do you think” questions.
Social and sharing skills can be developed through attending a daycare or playgroup.
Following directions can be extended by adding tasks: “Practice having your child follow simple directions, such as ‘please get your shoes’ and then add another direction such as ‘Please get your shoes and find your teddy bear,’” she suggests.
Johnston says the best tool a parent has is talking to their child.
“I feel that the most important thing that parents can do over the summer is have many conversations with their children about all of the new things that are going to happen at school,” Johnston says.
Horne is pretty certain Violet is ready for the big day. Violet knows she is, and has already made her first recess plan, “I’m looking forward to playing with my friends outside on the big kids playground,” she says.
As for me, I’m off to tweak my Prepare for School list – cross out flash cards and workbooks, add language, safety, and social skills. We may be able to handle this after all.