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Getting your child ready for school
by Fiona Walker

The transition from preschool into Primary school is one of the biggest changes a child will face in his or her educational journey.

There are many factors which will determine how successful this transition is. You need to be well aware of these factors so you can support your child and ensure this move to ‘big school’ is one that is faced with excitement and anticipation rather than fear and apprehension.

Confidence: Confidence is defined as a belief or trust in your own abilities and judgment. Children begin to develop confidence from a very early age. Early positive experiences provide the foundation on which self-confidence is built. If your child has a strong belief in their own ability and appear confident when faced with new situations they are very likely to take the transition to Primary school in their stride. For children with less confidence they will need more reassurance during the first few weeks as they settle in.

Independence: Being able to dress independently, pack and unpack a school bag and follow routines and instruction without numerous prompts is vital in school. It is often children who struggle to function independently that face far greater challenges in Primary school. A mistake some parents make is focusing solely on academic development but not on the social skills of independence and confidence.

Temperament: Children have different temperaments, in other words, their natural style of interacting or reacting to people, places and things. Understanding your child’s temperament, which can vary greatly from yours, is important for you to be able to help your child settle into his or her new school. For children who are very slow to open up and express themselves in new situations, it is important for you to reassure them that it is okay to ask for help or directions. For children who get overly stimulated by many new sensory experiences, a quiet time to unwind after school is very important.

Learning Style: Once children enter Primary school you can expect an increase in homework so be prepared for some brain strain as you try to remember your algebra and the capitals of far flung countries. By understanding your child’s learning style you will be able to make the time spent on work at home a time you will treasure as opposed to dread. Your child will most likely fall into one of the these three categories:

* Auditory learners remember by talking out loud, like to have things explained orally and may have trouble with written instructions. Auditory learners may talk to themselves when learning something new.
* Visual learners easily remember visual details and prefer to see what they are learning. They prefer to write down instructions and may have trouble following lectures.
* Kinesthetic or tactile learners prefer activities that allow them to do what they are learning about. Tactile learners like to touch things in order to learn about them and like to move around when talking or listening.

Role Models: if your child has an older sibling or close cousins and friends who already attend Primary school, it means that your child is not stepping into the great unknown. Generally younger children look up to older relatives and friends and look forward to being able to do what they do. Going to the same school as an older sibling is a very proud moment for many children.

Developing positive self-esteem and confidence in your child is not something that can be done overnight and neither is gaining an insight into your child’s temperament and learning style. Laying the foundations for developing secure, confident children takes time and begins in the very first year of life.

With only a few days to go before the new school year starts, there are a number of ways you can use this time to further prepare your child.

* Routine: Get your child into the new routine of bedtime and getting up early a good few days before school starts. A good night’s sleep and nutritious breakfast is vital for success in school.

* Be prepared: Involve your child in buying the necessary school supplies, this can create a sense of excitement.

* Talk it through: Spend a lot of time talking to your child about the new school, and what will be different; for example, buying food from the canteen or supplies from the bookshop. Also give them advice on what to do if they are unsure. Talk about your experiences at school and all your happy memories. Give them time to think and ask questions.

Remember to be positive, should you show anxiety it will certainly spread to your child. It is natural that as parents you are anxious that they make a success of the new environment, settle in well, make friends and enjoy going to school each day. That is a normal part of parenting, but it is also our job to focus on the positive. Talk about what a big boy or girl they are now, how much they will enjoy the school and focus on all that will be exciting and new.

The contributor, Fiona Walker, is the Principal Director of Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning and Chiltern House.

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