Getting to know your school
It is very stressful to start school, especially if the environment is completely new to you and your child. Try to take your child to visit the school and meet the teachers before he starts school.
Prand Tots is an excellent way to prepare your little one for school. These parent and child sessions gently introduce your child to the routine and fun of school life! Your child becomes familiar with me, school activities and with the school grounds while having a mom/dad/nanny right beside them. Chat about your experiences together at these classes, reminding your tot of all the fun you have!
Children are very perceptive and immediately feel your concerns. When you chat about school talk about the little positive things like making friends, singing songs, playing in the garden, painting…and most importantly emphasise that school is fun! Do not ask your child, “Do you want to go to school?” This invites a choice not to go. Rather say cheerfully- “It is a school day today- you are going to have so much fun!”
I cannot stress this enough! Children really respond to routine and consistency! Make sure that you take your little one to school each school day unless they are sick. This is the quickest and easiest way to settle them. Make your school morning a routine and stick to this! Sometimes it takes a little one a whole year to settle because they stay off so much and each time they return after an absence it is like starting all over again; for you, your child and for the teachers. This works out to be so much more stressful and allows the child to dwell on negative feelings too long! If your little one is anxious about attending school drop them at school for just a little while, rather than keep them at home!
Do not linger too long:
Although we all feel that our children will feel more settled if we linger a while at school; this can actually end up stressing the children even more. The entire time you stay with an anxious soul, she feels stressed about the upcoming separation. The more that you draw this out the more intense her anxiety becomes and when you finally do leave everyone feels quiet stressed out and the tears on separation could become more distressing for everyone! It is also hard for a teacher to try to distract your little angel while you are there. You can always phone a little later to find out how he/she is.
Tell your little one that you will start one activity with them but that you will leave in 5 minutes/ after some short activity is completed. Do not allow your little one to keep extending this time! Be consistent with this! If your tot is too anxious to complete an activity with you, read a short story, hand him/her over to the teacher and then leave.
Do not get caught chatting to other parents, while still in eye sight after the goodbyes have been said- this will only cause you to have to go through the whole “goodbye time” again!
Make sure that you say goodbye- don’t sneak away!
Always be honest with your child. Do not tell them that you won’t go anywhere and then sneak off! Firstly this will not help to develop the trust between you and your child in general. Secondly this will only make any separation anxiety worse! Your little one won’t trust you whenever you go to a new environment and he will be constantly looking for you or clinging to you! Your child may then become very distressed if you are not constantly in eye sight! If you always stay when you say you are going to stay they will feel much more secure in any situation and will also feel empowered. When you do say goodbye, remind your child that you will be back to fetch them after story time!
Shorten the morning initially:
At Prand, we have a staggered intake of new children. In this way we are able to settle children gradually and can devote more individual attention to each child. We also end the morning at 11 am for the first week, 11:30 for the second week and at 12pm for the third week. This allows the children to gradually become accustomed to the long school morning. We feel that it is important for the children to leave school happy and with a positive memory of their school morning! If they are over tired by the time they leave, much of their happy morning will be forgotten! If you feel that your little one needs a little longer to get used to the full morning we are happy to allow you to fetch them earlier for a little longer!
Don’t be late to fetch them after school:
Initially make sure that you arrive on time to fetch your little one! Collection time can be just as stressful to children. They see everyone being collected and feel anxious about whether or not you will come. Often they even burst into tears in relief when they see mom arrive to collect them! Make sure that you are there! 5 minutes can seem like an eternity to a child if they are feeling anxious about whether or not you will arrive! Be consistent! Later on they will always feel comforted when you say that you will collect them after story time because they now trust that you will if you say so! We remind the little ones of this throughout the day as well and it also helps to develop the trust between child and teacher!
Early bed time:
Make sure that your child gets to bed early the night before school. If your little one has had a good night’s sleep he/she will be able to handle the new situation and environment better. Being tired and cranky does not help! Be consistent with bed times and make this a daily routine! Try to start this routine about 2 weeks before starting school.
A relaxed but timeous start:
I always say that our starting times are flexible as I would rather that you and your little one arrive late than all rushed and stressed out. But please also bear in mind that it is easier for your little one to settle if they arrive between 8:30 and 9 am as the routine of the school day allows for this time to be a welcoming and settling time! Often connections are made for the day and the teachers are focussed solely on welcoming and settling each little one!
Arriving once all activities have begun puts more stress on those that are struggling to settle. They then feel a little like an outsider and it can require more effort for them to connect with their friends for the day. However, if you are having a stressful morning, relax and get to school when you can! We will gladly do everything we can to make your little one feel as welcome as possible- just don’t make late arrivals a daily routine! It is also harder on the other children as they need to wait for activities to begin while the teacher settles the late comer!
Use the years at play school to gradually get your child into an earlier routine. Then when they move on to more formal education it will not be a shock to the system to get to school by 8 am. Start a morning routine as soon as possible. Try to get this going before school even starts for the year. If your morning routine is consistent you will help your child feel secure and safe from the minute they wake up.
Try to wake up early enough to have a relaxed morning. You can have fun preparing for the day together- chosing clothes, packing a healthy lunch and discussing all the exciting things that you see on the drive to school.
Trust the teachers and build your little one’s trust in their teachers:
Teaching is truly our passion and we look after each and every little one as if they were our own. We want them to feel happy and secure, we want them to enjoy their morning and it saddens us too if they are distressed. Trust us to look after your child. Trust our report back on their morning at school. We will definitely phone you during the course of the morning if they do not settle at all- We will not leave them to cry all morning! If they do settle we will share their happy moments with you. We will tell you about any incidences, tears or laughter.
When discussing the morning at school with your child, focus on the positive experiences and things that the teacher has commented on. Do not ignore any negative comments made by your child. Discuss them but do not harp on them. A child will continually build on this negative experience if they sense your outrage! Rather give your little one tips on how to deal with these situations, concentrating on the positive outcomes, even the positive attributes to a child that may be making them feel anxious. Stress that the teacher is there to look after them and will keep them safe! Also give them age-appropriate ideas on how to handle conflict situations. In this way you will be helping them to develop social skills for life! Tell the teachers about any such distressing feelings, listen to their perspective and insight and trust them to handle the situation. We have had so much experience in settling each little individual and different personality. We really are dedicated to helping you to settle your special and unique child!
Organise a home visit:
Visiting a tot at home is a wonderful way to develop the relationship between child and teacher. Each child is extremely proud to show their teacher around their home, bedrooms, garden and toy collection! You can always sense a beautiful new connection between child and teacher after a home visit. This can be organised at any time, but don’t wait until the end of the year to make the most of this opportunity!
Treat Prand as a home away from home:
If you feel happy and enthusiastic about arriving at school, your little tot will feel this and he will start to feel more secure about the environment. If mommy enjoys greeting her friends, chatting to the teacher and interacting with my friends- it must be a safe place to be!
Try to get as much out of being at Prand as possible- we really do want an extended family environment- one in which parents are supported as well as the children. Years ago we lived in family communities where everyone in the extended family supported and assisted with child rearing. The value of learning from others in the same position as you and those with experience is indescribable. Get involved in school activities, organise play dates and try to attend parents events!
Talk to Janine:
If your little one is exceptionally distressed and you are struggling to keep upbeat about the new situation, please come and chat to me! I am around every day. I may be in one of the other classrooms but I am available to chat to you. If you prefer we can meet away from the school so that we can chat without interruption and away from your little one. It is important that your child does not see how stressed you are about the situation.
There are many ways to help settle these sensitive little souls. We can allow you to bring your little one every morning to school for an hour so that the time at school is short and manageable. The length of time at school can be gradually extended until they are at school for a full morning. We can explore the various options and find a solution that suits you and your family