How to help prepare your son for Prep
Tomorrow your son will start school. It’s called ‘Prep’ but if you’re anything like I was this time last year, you won’t feel ‘prepped’ at all. More of a blubbering mess actually.
Last year, most of the school mums and dads I spoke to offered the same advice: pack tissues (but try not to cry in front of him); take photos (it’s a milestone and you’ll regret it if you don’t); and remember to pick him up…
All solid and useful advice. But of course, this isn’t all about you.
It’s likely that your son is feeling madly excited and totally petrified too, even if he doesn’t show it. After all, he’s never done this ‘school thing’ before either.
Luckily, most prep teachers have done this ‘school thing’ before. Here, three experienced prep teachers from Brighton Grammar offer their top tips for parents, which will hopefully help make your son’s first day an experience he won’t forget – for all the right reasons.
- Talk him through the school-day routine
Most children thrive on routine and your son may feel daunted when faced with a brand new routine and environment. The more familiar he feels with what will happen, and when, the better. Ensure your son knows who will be collecting him, at what time and from where. Explain what the bell means and talk to him about recess and lunch breaks.
- Pack his school bag together…
… then unpack and pack it again. At school, your son will need to unpack and pack his own bag, so this will help him remember details such as hat in the front pocket, lunch in the big middle pocket.
For lunch, give him his favourites – this is not the time to introduce unfamiliar foods. Don’t pack any food he can’t open himself, and ensure he knows which containers are for snack time and which are for lunch. I learned this the hard way – on his first day, my son ate everything I gave him at recess and then got upset because he had no time to play. By the time I picked him up he was a very (h)angry little man…
- Reassure him that his teacher is one of the ‘good guys’
Being surrounded by unfamiliar adults can be intimidating. Reassure your son that he can talk to his teacher about anything that’s bothering him – from going to the toilet to not having anyone to play with. His teacher will remind him about routines, reassure him that it’s OK to make mistakes, and ask positive questions, but your ‘stamp of approval’ will help your son feel more secure.
- Focus on the positive, so he can too
Talk to your son about how exciting school is going to be and try not to voice any concerns you have in front of him. On his first day, tell your son that you will ask him about one or two great things that happened during his day. This will help your son start the day with a positive mindset, focus on the good stuff during the day, and see this time of change as exciting rather than scary or challenging.
- Be early so you can explore together
Arrive at school early so your son can have a play in the playground – this helps him work out what to do at recess and lunchtime. Explore your son’s classroom with him, and, if possible, visit the toilet together.
Each of the three prep teachers I spoke to said that going to the toilet is often highly stressful for kids on their first day.
If your son knows some of the kids in his class from kinder or childcare, encourage him to talk to his friends from last year.
- Don’t linger for too long
Settling your son in is great. Peeking through the window and sobbing is not. Say goodbye once, then go. And try not to go back for one last hug or kiss as this can be unsettling, not only for your son but also for other kids in the class.
Prep teachers design the first day to be an enjoyable introduction to school; by lingering, you make it harder for your son to start having fun. If possible, go have a coffee (and a cry) with some of the other parents – remember this is your chance to make new friends too.
- Don’t push too hard for information
Yes, I know you’re dying to know every detail of what happened today but your son will be tired. Let him relax or play for a while before asking him about his day. And when you do ask, make your questions positive and open ended, such as: “What went well today?”, “Who did you play with?” or “What was your favourite part of the day?” Your son will be anxious to please you, so if you ask him a closed question, he may just tell you what he thinks you want to hear.
There will be bumps and hurdles along the way, but hopefully these top tips should put your son on the front foot for the start of his school journey (even if you’re still a blubbering mess)…Bec Cavalôt is a Melbourne-based writer and editor, and mum of two beautiful, boisterous boys. This article is about Education
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