How can I help my child cope with starting school?

Last week we covered emotional readiness, what it looks like and how to develop it. But what can we do as parents before school starts to help our children cope with the transition? 

Prior to school commencing, it can be helpful to assist your child in establishing expectations around what school will look like, discuss their emotions around starting school and develop effective coping strategies that they can use to manage strong emotions. 

To assist in establishing expectations, you can prepare your child for what school might be like by talking about what is going to happen at school, explaining the new routine, driving past the school, taking tours of the school, completing practice runs of the first day or reading books about other people’s experiences of starting school. When discussing emotions around starting school, it is important to provide space for your child to explore the feelings they are having in relation to this transition. Young children may experience difficulty putting their feelings into words, so it may be helpful to draw or play out how they are feeling about the first day of school. To develop effective coping strategies, it is important to teach skills that your child can use when they are feeling calm before trialing these out during a strong emotion. Examples of effective coping strategies include positive self-talk, breathing exercises, getting a drink of water, asking for help or labelling an emotion. 

As parents, it is really important to think about how you are feeling about your child starting school and the emotions and reactions you are showing to them. Children will look to you to determine how safe a situation is, so even if you are not feeling it, showing enthusiasm and excitement communicates to your child that the transition to school is exciting and something that they can cope with.

If you have been through all these strategies and are still unsure about whether your child is ready for school, there are several people who can help.  Your child’s kindergarten teacher is a great source of information and will be able to give tailored advice specific to your child.  Alternatively, you can always book a session with one of our paediatric Psychologists to explore your child’s needs and make a plan that works for you and your child. 

Laura Moresi is a psychologist completing the Educational and Developmental registrar program. Laura is passionate about working collaboratively with families and other professionals to support children and adolescents to reach their best potential. Laura has experience working with a variety of development and mental health concerns.

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