Starting school for the first time can spark excitement and fear, joy and sadness, anxiety and anticipation – in both boys and their parents.
As school begins for another year, young boys across Australia are starting their learning journey – one which will include successes, failures and everything in between.
It is a huge learning curve for boys to adjust to school for the first time, from learning to look after their belongings and being away from their main care giver i.e. mum, to forming positive friendships and listening to teachers.
The WA Health Department offers tips to parents to help ease their children into school;
Talk about feelings
Starting school is exciting but can also be overwhelming for some children. Shyness and anxiety in new situations is common and learning to be apart from parents can sometimes be difficult.
• Talk positively about going to school, making new friends and about some of the experiences your child will have, such as learning new songs, painting and playing outside.
• Encourage your child to talk about how they are feeling before, on and after the first few days.
• When you arrive at school, spend a short amount of time with your child and, when it is time for you to leave, tell your child you’re going and when you will be back. Always be there at the specified time.
Get enough sleep
• Your child needs a good night’s sleep for their brain to be ready to learn (about 10 to 12 hours).
• It helps to have ‘wind down’ time and dim the lights to help prepare for sleep. Set up a nice, relaxing bedtime routine, for example a bath, a drink, cuddle, story, kiss and ‘goodnight’.
Share a book
Read lots and lots of books! Have a special time each day to read stories together – sit comfortably so your child can see the book and your facial expressions, and so you can see theirs.
• Show your child how to open the book, point to the title of the story, the letters, words and pictures so they will know what it means.
• Read nursery rhymes and old favourites again and again.
• Get your child involved in the story and ask open ended questions, for example, ‘What do you think will happen next?’
Learning to make friends and pretend play
At school, children learn to make friends, share and take turns.
• Create opportunities for your child to socialise with others outside the family – initiate play dates with other children.
• Pretend play such as going to the shops, tea parties and superheroes are a big part of school. Let your child use their imagination. A shoe box can become a toy car or a doll’s bed!
Playgrounds and parks
Having fun at the park is great as it provides lots of chances to enjoy the swings, slide and other equipment. By doing physical activity like this:
• your child’s muscles will get stronger and it prepares them for outdoor play at school. Make sure they are well supervised when playing
• a part of the brain is used which can help kids concentrate, so it is helpful to do some physical activity before a sit down activity, such as play at the park before sitting down to read a book.
Speaking and listening
Listening and understanding includes following instructions and being aware of what other people are saying. If your child is finding this tricky you can try:
• waiting – give time for your child to answer or do the task
• repeating what was said or breaking it down into smaller parts
• using less words and explaining the meaning of new words
• giving them a clue like, ‘You cut with the…?’
• giving a choice like, ‘Do we use a cup for drinking or eating?’
Commenting, negotiating, asking for things and greeting people are all important skills at school. If your child finds this tricky you can:
• encourage your child to make comments, for example ‘Dad is swimming!’
• if they make a mistake, say the word back to them correctly
• ask them to show you what they need if they can’t say it in words
• give lots of praise for trying.
It is helpful for school children to be able to dress and undress themselves. You can help by:
• dressing your child for school, remembering they may be playing outside or painting
• practising dressing – you complete the first part of each piece of clothing and then let the child complete the rest, gradually letting the child do more until they do it all themselves
• practising with dress-up play or with dolls.
Healthy lunches and snacks help with concentration and learning. You can try:
• encouraging your child to be involved, for example packing their own lunch box.
• including plenty of vegetables, fresh fruit, cheese, yoghurt, lean meat, wholemeal bread and a bottle of water. Remember to start the day with a healthy breakfast!
Going to the toilet
To help your child manage the toilet at school give them chances to undo, pull down and do up their clothes, flush the toilet and wash their hands without your help.
When your child starts school it can be quite overwhelming for you too! It is important you try to relax and enjoy this time with your child.
If you feel calm and show you are comfortable about your child starting school, they will feel happier too.