Heading off to school? Deakin lecturer shares her best tips for a smooth transition
When it comes to being prepared to start to school, it’s often parents who have the hardest time, Deakin University lecturer Dr Elizabeth Rouse has said, noting that it was important for parents to be well supported as children start the school year, so they could manage the families lifestyle and routines.
“Parents need to ensure their children, particularly children starting their first year of school, are getting a good night’s sleep, eating good food and have lots of time to relax and talk about their day and how they are feeling,” Dr Rouse said.
“This is particularly the case for younger children who can tire very easily and need to get into good sleeping and eating routines before they start school.”
Space should also be made, she said, for conversation which allows the child to share their point of view. “Parents need to be careful not to overwhelm their children by voicing their own feelings and expectations.”
Dr Rouse’s tips for a successful start are:
Lots of sleep
Children need around 12 hours of sleep each day and getting that amount of sleep requires a regular bedtime, which needs to become routine before the start of the school year so that they are properly rested from day one.
Lots of good food
Children come home from school starving. School is a busy active place and often they are too busy playing to eat properly.
Dr Rouse said many families eat their evening meal later but children are really hungry at 5pm so she suggests providing lots of healthy snacks around 5pm and not worry too much if they don’t have much appetite when the family sits down together for a meal later on.
Dr Rouse also suggests getting children used to eating out of their lunch box and even taking a picnic to the school grounds so that children become familiar with the school grounds.
Make time for conversation
Parents need to provide the opportunity for conversation, both one-on-one and as a family. Children may feel a mix of excitement and anxiety about starting school so parents need to allow children time to talk about their feelings.
Family meal times and time in the car after school provide ideal opportunities for informal chats, and the bedtime story reading routine can also be a great time to let the conversation flow.
Dr Rouse said it was important that parents don’t over-hype the situation and put children under too much pressure to be the ‘big kid’.
“Ask easy open-ended questions. Often children don’t know what they’ve learnt but they can tell you what they enjoyed or what they didn’t enjoy,” Dr Rouse said.
The final tip? Make the most of the rest of the school holidays. With children in much of Australia heading through the gates on Tuesday 28 January, there are a precious few days left to soak up the summer sun.
For more tips on a successful start to school, please see here.