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Older Children

Starting school

The great day is looming – your preschooler will soon be leaving the nest and starting their first day at school. This will be a time of mixed emotions. On the one hand you will be so proud of this big step into the wide world but on the other hand, you will feel real sadness at the passing of those special preschool years.

In New Zealand, most children start school shortly after they turn five, but all children must be enrolled at school by their sixth birthday.

School visits are an important way to help you and your child to meet the staff and talk about ways to make sure things go smoothly. Discuss how many visits your child should have – how often and for how long – so your child will have a good transition to the people, routines and environment that will soon be part of their daily life.

Your child might join their new class for half a day a week for a while before they begin school. You could try taking your child to activities such as sports days if you want them to have even more contact with the school before they start. School visits mean the classroom teacher and many of the children will be quite familiar by the time your child starts school full time.

Talk about school

Before you start school visits, talk with your child about what going to school will mean. Tell them about the wonderful new things they will do and learn. Listen to their fears and talk with them about how you can address their concerns. Explain practical things to them – like where to go to the toilet, what happens at break time and what is expected of them at mat time. Talk to them about basic school rules, such as putting your hand up to ask a question or asking to go to the toilet. Be positive!

If you show your child that you believe they can manage well, it will help them believe in themselves. Try not to let them know about any anxieties you may have as they may pick up on this and begin to worry as well.

Plan a shopping trip

Make sure they have all the required items, such as a good schoolbag, lunchbox and sunhat – or a school uniform if that applies to the school you have chosen. Before you buy stationery items, check with the school as sometimes things are supplied through the school.

Think of anything that your child could find tricky, such as being able to open that shiny new lunchbox – and practise at home!

Make a checklist (using words or pictures) of things they need to take to school in their bag and things they need to remember to bring home every day – stick it on the fridge so they will know what to take in the morning. You may need to remind them at home time about the things that need to come home.

Get your child to have their clothing out and backpack ready the night before to reduce stress in the morning. Make sure you’ve labelled their lunchbox, drink bottle, sunhat and any clothing likely to be taken off during the day – you might be surprised at what clothes an active child can shed in the pursuit of fun and knowledge!

Children take a while to adjust to the school day and the formal activities and structure of the classroom, so don’t be surprised if your child may be a bit unsettled and more tired than usual.

They may be quite grumpy after school and need to go to bed earlier for the first few months. They could be famished after school and need a big snack, which may mean they’ll only want something small or nothing at all when it comes to dinner. This is normal as your child is on a huge learning curve, constantly soaking up all the new information and ideas.

Before your child starts school, the office will need to know:„

  • specific information about your child’s needs„
  • details of any medicines your child takes
  • „the names of parents, caregivers, whānau and other significant people involved with your child and who to contact in an emergency„
  • information about your child’s ethnicity and the language you speak at home.

Even though the first day at school can be emotionally wrenching, take time to congratulate yourself for the wonderful job you have done in guiding your child through their preschool years.

In the words of the inimitable Dr Seuss: “You’re off to great places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”

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