Moving from preschool into a formal schooling environment is a big step – not just for young children, but for parents too. Doubts and anxiety often accompany this major move, but parents should aim to ensure a conscious transition that addresses specific issues so their child starts their school career on a solid foundation. “Some of the practical things can be very exciting – sorting out school uniforms and supplies, learning about the new routine, meeting the new teacher and exploring the new school grounds,” says Trudie Gilmore, general manager at ADvTECH Junior Colleges. “However, the increased demands and unfamiliar environment can be daunting, and children need to be eased into the new situation.” She adds that the expectations of the parents can cause unnecessary pressure at this young age.
She suggest the following tips and guidelines when embarking on this exciting new life chapter:
Allow for making mistakes
The lesson is in the learning, not only the outcome, says Trudie. “At this age, parents should encourage their children to be more independent and, where possible, think for themselves. Encourage your child to practise small ways of looking after herself, like getting dressed, packing her bag and looking after her belongings. Encourage and praise her for trying – even when she doesn’t get it perfectly right.”
“It can be tremendously frustrating for young children if they are unable to complete a task to their satisfaction. Teach your child that when learning new things, it’s important for her to keep trying – even if she find things challenging. Don’t step in and ‘fix’ the situation, but rather guide, encourage and motivate,” says Trudie.
Junior school is an important social milestone and the time when children need to start working and engaging in meaningful play with their peers, even if they don’t automatically get along. Encourage your child to be inclusionary and kind, which will help her develop emotional maturity, as well as confidence.
“You can also prepare together by acting out different situations with toys. Playing games that involve turns or rules, such as board games, are good for practising how to get along with others. This way, children can try out some of the skills they’ll need later to make friends,” says Trudie.
“Being interested and curious about the things around us is an important part of learning. Encourage your child’s natural sense of curiosity by talking to her about things, people and places when you are out and about. New research has shown clear benefits for children whose parents engage them in productive conversation where each person takes turns to listen and respond appropriately,” says Trudie.
“Listen to and answer their questions, nurture their love of reading – an exciting and empowering new skill – and look things up on the computer together. Try to see the world through your child’s eyes, and talk and wonder about the everyday things you see and hear.”
Trudie says it’s important for parents to help their children navigate and manage increased stress levels caused by more challenging schoolwork, homework, assessments, diversity within the school environment, after-school activities and possible bullying.
“Ensure your child is able to respond to the challenges they will face every day by limiting any additional pressure,” she says.
“And remember, sleep is key. Children who get enough sleep are less likely to be short-tempered and are better able to handle school stress. Also beware of piling on extra-mural activities. We’ve come to believe that busy equals happy, but over-scheduling means less free time and family time.”
Our society is expecting more and more from children at younger ages, says Trudie.
“Our job as parents and guardians is to help them understand and respond appropriately to these demands, and develop their emotional intelligence to set them up for a successful and productive school career.”