Bring On Big School!

by Dana Smith Bader
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I thought sending my first daughter to nursery was a big transition until BIG SCHOOL started looming on the horizon. Once again, I had to research and visit schools, talk to the heads, meet the teachers, bring my child for an assessment (what?!?), and prepare my little princess (and myself) for the big day. As I visited the schools and met the teachers, I had one thought in my mind, “How did this day come so quickly?” Well, maybe I had two or three thoughts in my head, “How can I take her from the nursery she loves?” and “How will she cope with the rigors of big school?” Well, maybe I had a million thoughts, all of them spinning through the tumble dryer of my mind. Needless to say, I was anxious about the transition, and I did not want to pass my anxiousness onto my daughter. I wanted her to look forward to big school and transition with courage and confidence.

To help her (and myself) transition well, I had to get on the ball and find a way to help her move as seamlessly as possible from nursery to big school. Fortunately, my friends with older kids had a lot of advice, and I was able to find some very useful tips from teachers and other childcare experts. What follows is a summary of some tried and tested tips I followed that really helped my daughter’s transition:

Attend the orientation or welcome day at the new school. My daughter’s big school had a welcome day for children and parents that I attended. On that day, I was able to meet most of the teachers and many of the parents. I even got a few numbers of the parents of children who would be in the same class as my daughter so that we could set up play dates over the summer. As a result, by the time school started in September, my daughter already had two new best friends in her class.

Work on skills and practice self-care. If your children have been in nursery, they have already practiced forming letters, following directions, cutting skills, and coloring. They probably are fully potty trained as well. However, if they have not been in nursery, or if you want to keep these practices fresh in their minds over the long summer, it is important to continue to practice these skills so they have confidence in their abilities when school starts.

Prepare them for big school by reading books about going to school. It is essential that you prepare your children mentally for going to big school. One of the easiest ways to do that is to read books about big school and talk about the characters and your child’s feelings. The more scenarios you present to them through stories, the more opportunities they will have to talk about their feelings, worries, and excitement, and to ask questions that help them to understand the transition they are about to make.

Get them excited about school gear. Get the uniforms or school clothes, bag, and lunch box as early as possible so that your child can get excited about school. You can even fill their lunch box and book bag and let them role play going to school.

Prepare your child for the first day. Talk to your child about the first day, the drop off, the length of the day, the activities at school, and, of course, the end-of-the-day pick up. The more they know, the more confident they will be to handle what is to come.

Expect regression. The closer the big day comes, your child might whine, cry, have bathroom accidents, or be extremely clingy. All of these things are normal, and you shouldn’t overreact. Instead, just continue to give your child reassurance and let them know that you love them and are confident that they will do well in big school.

Check your feelings. Always be aware of your feelings. If you are anxious, you can pass your anxiety on to your child. Try to stay positive and focus on being excited about the new experience, new friends, and kind teachers you child will enjoy.

You have three months until the first day of school in September. The groundwork you lay now will help to ease the transition for your child. Instead of stressing about the big day, take positive steps to prepare your child. The more you do now, the less you will struggle when school starts. With these simple tips, you and your child will be saying, “Bring on BIG SCHOOL!”

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