Six ways to prepare your preppy for their first weeks of school

Media release

25 January 2021

With only a handful of sleeps to go before the beginning of the school year, a Deakin University parenting expert says now is a good time for parents and carers to start preparing their preppies for the first days of school.

Dr Elizabeth Westrupp, a clinical psychologist and senior lecturer in Deakin's Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development (SEED) in the School of Psychology, said starting school for the first time can be daunting for many children, as well as their families, but there are steps that can be taken now to ease the transition.

"The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact - school and kindergarten closures in 2020 meant that many kids didn’t have a chance to get into the rhythm of school or kindergarten life, and might now be feeling apprehensive about starting in 2021," Dr Westrupp said.

Dr Westrupp provides the following steps families can take to make the first time walking through the school gates a positive experience.

"The first weeks of school are an exciting time but can be nerve-wracking for both kids and parents. There are a few steps that can really help the transition go more smoothly for everyone."

  1. Talk about school: Knowing what to expect helps everyone manage change better. This is particularly important for children who are shy, nervous or anxious. Begin talking about school and how the first day will run, well in advance. Make it a story and talk them through (or act out) the routine for the night before and the morning of the first day of school.
  2. Involve children in preparation: Ask your child to help you prepare the school lunches, bags, books, outfit, and so on, for the first week. Let them make some of the decisions. When children are involved in planning, they become more interested and confident. Letting them choose something new (even a new pen!) can get them excited.
  3. Adjust the sleep routine: Lots of families relax bedtime routines over summer. However, kids can be more emotional and tired when adjusting to the school time schedule. Help your child by getting into routine a week before school. The best way to shift a sleep cycle is to start in the morning - set an alarm clock for the school wake time and then slowly adjust the bedtime back over a few days. Avoid technology in the hour before bedtime.
  4. Be prepared for an over tired child: Children expend a lot of energy maintaining their concentration and good behaviour at school - and this means they might be much more silly, rude, emotional, or difficult than usual at home in that first week. This is a sign that they're tired and/or releasing pent up emotions from their school day. It’s normal! Let them express all emotions but stick to the normal routine.
  5. Provide the right fuel: Nutrition is really important for brain development and health. Make sure you and your child have planned a healthy menu for the first week, taking into account the whole day - breakfast, lunchbox, after school snack, and healthy dinners. Keep it simple - sandwiches and fruit are fine.
  6. Parent time: Starting school can be tiring for parents too. Kids do best when parents are well rested and have had their own time out, particularly after how stressful the last year has been. Plan in some down-time / time-out for yourself – it’s the best investment in your children’s wellbeing.

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Media release School of Psychology, Faculty of Health Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development (SEED)