Your little one’s introduction to prep can seem equal parts anxiety-inducing and exciting – and it’s important to be prepared for a range of emotions from both yourself as parents and carers as well as from your child. Finding the right school for your family and being prepared to support your little one’s emotional needs can make the process much easier than you may think.
Starting prep is not just about the first day of school, but rather setting your child up for a smooth transition from early learning to a life of education. Parents should work in partnership with their chosen school to make this big step much less daunting. According to the Victorian Education Department, “successful transition programs contribute to 60 per cent of student learning improvement in academic and social development”. With this in mind, the school’s transition program is imperative to not only your little one’s adjustment into prep, but also their long-term academic outcomes so be sure to attend information sessions and educate yourself on the school’s transition period and how it can assist your little one.
Finding the right fit
Choosing a school with a successful transition program offers families and schools the opportunity to get to know one another and brings the entire family on the journey from enrolment right through to the first year. It gives your child the chance to build relationships with teachers and peers, as well as feel comfortable, confident and supported in their new learning environment.
Common objections: “I don’t want to go to that school!”
Make sure your child has the chance to be heard. Get down on their level or bring them up to your level so you are eye-to-eye. Ask them what they are concerned about and reassure them that their feelings are valid rather than dismissing how they are feeling. It is likely they are worried about not knowing anyone or not fitting in, so you can comfort them by letting them know their classmates will be feeling the same way and will want to make new friends, too. You could also reassure them by explaining their pre-prep transition days will give them the chance to meet new friends.
The big day
Offer plenty of opportunities for communication prior to their first official day so your little one has an understanding of what to expect. You can start to mention big school, school uniforms and how proud you are of them or involve school talk in playtime at home. The Queensland Government offer a ‘Starting School Game’, which is available to download online and includes games and information encouraging parents and kids to talk about starting school in a playful way. If you find your child is overwhelmed or worried about starting prep, this is a fun way to get them accustomed to the idea.
Common objections: “I want to stay home with you!”
It can be so difficult to see your little one upset at drop off, but reassuring them and being prepared for how they may react will help you to respond to the situation. Kids Matter recommends learning from other transition periods and tailoring an approach that suits your little one’s temperament. For example, think about a time your child experienced another transition period. What approach helped them through this stage? Use this experience and tailor it to this situation.
Prep and beyond
Once your child is settled into prep, clear communication with the school is crucial for ongoing success. Schools see education as a partnership between schools and families and parents and carers are welcomed as members of the school community.
For more expert advice and tips for this transition, follow the Facebook page ‘BePrepped4Prep’, a community service initiative by Cairns Catholic Education for all families in the Far North who have a child about to start school.