Sending a child to school for the first time can be a traumatic experience for both parent and child. Parents may spend months checking out different preschools trying to find the best school for their child.They panic when the school they finally decide upon puts them on the waiting list and rejoice when their child is finally accepted and registered.
With a trembling heart parents gush to their child about how wonderful the school is and how happy he/she will be there trying desperately to convince themselves as well.
New clothes are bought especially for the school and of course the latest lunch box and a cute backpack crayons, and special treats.
Finally the big day arrives, and it is important for parents to know that each child is different. Some children will just saunter in cheerfully and fit right in the new environment while others need a few days to adjust and some even a few weeks.
Separation anxiety can be terrifying to young children who are still dependent on their parents. The reasons for this are many and varied. It can be the new environment, meeting new people, having to depend on new caregivers who are strangers, or being in a big noisy group of people. Mostly, it is the primal fear that their mother may not come back for them.
Separation anxiety can also affect older children who return to school after vacation or illness, divorce or death in the family. Sometimes the child has a negative experience at school, maybe a bigger child pushes him or the teacher snaps at him. This may put him off school for some time.
Parents should listen to their children and comfort them and not wave their complaints aside but at the same time should not make a big fuss about the incident. Finding the right balance of acknowledging the pain and reassuring the child is vital.
But how should parents prepare their children for school?
Here are a few hints:
- Talk to your child about school and read a lot of stories about children going to school and what they do there. Stories are a great method to indirectly deal with the mixed emotions of the child.
- Visit the school with the child a few times and ask for permission to stay for a while so that the child gets an idea about what school is and becomes familiar with the place.
- Ask the school to give you the name of some children who will be in your child’s class and contact the parents to introduce the children to each other. It will help if the child sees some familiar faces in the classroom with him/her.
- If you are the sole caretaker of the child, you should slowly get the child used to the idea of being away from you. Leave him/her with a relative or friend and exchange play time activities with friends.
- Introduce your child to the headmistress and teachers and show that you are on friendly basis with them. Refer to them often by name.
- Play act using your child’s toys about going to school listing all the fun things that for example “Teddy” will be doing in school and mostly emphasizing the fact that mother left “Teddy” and then came back to pick him up.
- The child who is ready and well prepared by the parent will quickly overcome his reservations and will enjoy school read.