Heading back to school can be an exciting time for children and families. It can also be a stressful time as children and parents wonder what their new teacher or school will be like. This sense of anxiety can be compounded if the child and family are new to Singapore – adjusting to a new country, a new house or condo, a new culture and a new way of life. The good news is that there are things that we can do, as parents, to help both our children and ourselves prepare for the first day of school. We’ve brought in an expert from one of Singapore’s top international kindergartens, Andrea Strachan, Vice Principal of the kindergarten at Canadian International School’s (CIS) Lakeside Campus, with key advice for easing the transition and getting your little one off on the right foot!
Talk about it!
Take time to talk to your child about how he/she is feeling about starting school. Are they excited? Are they worried? At CIS, we encourage parents to address any fears their child may have and let them know that the teachers and people at the school are going to take great care of them. We always encourage parents to communicate to their child the confidence that they have in the school they have chosen for them, and the confidence they have in them as a learner.
Try not to let the first day of school be the first time your child has ever been away from you. If possible, schedule a playdate at a neighbour’s house, a visit to a grandparent or family friend’s house, or even a few days in a summer camp, where your child will be away from you for a few hours. They need to know that they can have fun and be safe when away from you. Choose school items that your child can be independent with. Is the size of your child’s school bag something they can manage on their own? Can your child put on and take off his/her shoes by him/herself? Have you chosen a water bottle that he/she can drink from easily on his/her own? Ensuring that your child can demonstrate a certain level of independence while managing personal items at school can go a long way in building self-confidence.
Adjust your schedule!
School is starting and it is important to have your child on a routine schedule during the day, at bedtime and in the morning so that he/she can feel well-rested and prepared to learn.
At CIS, we ask parents to check the school’s timetable/schedule prior to school starting. This way they will know what time their child will need to wake up and start the school day, eat snack, eat lunch, and when they’ll need to be asleep at night to rest up for a good day at school. Adjusting your daily schedule at least a week before school starts to reflect your child’s upcoming class schedule will help ease the transition from holiday to school.
Visit the School!
There is nothing that will demystify what a new teacher, classroom or school will feel like faster than a visit! At CIS, we offer an Orientation Day before the first day of school. This is the perfect opportunity to see the school, meet the teacher and find out more about what you need to do to get ready. At a school orientation, you will be able to meet the teachers, visit the classrooms and get a copy of your child’s schedule. If your child has special needs or requirements, it is important to communicate these to the teacher ahead of time. Don’t plan on having any type of extended meeting with the teacher on the first morning of school classes as he/she will be busy getting all of the children settled.
Plan your drop-off and pick-up routine
If your child is arriving to school on the first day by bus, it’s a good idea to attend the Orientation Day so that you can walk your child from where the bus will drop him/her off and then up to the classroom so that he/she can see the route. If your child is taking the bus and is very young, it can be helpful to make sure your child is wearing a nametag, or has a clear tag on his/her school bag, with his/her teacher’s name on it. Be sure your child knows his/her teacher’s name.
If you plan to personally drop off your child at the classroom, be sure to ask the teacher what the routine will be. Where is the drop off place? Where will be the pick up place and at what time? Ask the teacher what is expected of your child when he/she arrives. Will he/she be expected to unpack his/her own bag? Change into indoor shoes? Put his/her water bottle in a special place? You can practice these things at home!
Sometimes children can become emotional when saying goodbye to Mom or Dad on the first day of school. Create a “saying goodbye” ritual with your child ahead of time and practice it! Then, when the day comes, your child will know what to expect. If your child cries, it’s best to give them a smile, a quick hug, let them know that they will be okay and then leave your child with the teacher.
Teachers are experienced with this and will know how to comfort your child and help him/her adjust. When you leave with confidence, as planned, it helps your child to see that there is nothing to worry about and we promise that he/she will recover quickly and soon be joining in on the learning and fun!
Feeling rushed and unprepared in the morning can be stressful for both you and your child. Be sure to allow enough time in the morning for your child to have a healthy breakfast before leaving home. Check with the school ahead of time to find out what your child needs to bring with him/her to school on the first day – do you have a hat for outdoor play? A water bottle? Is there a special uniform ? A healthy snack from home? Organise a place by your front door where your child can help you prepare his/her school things for easy access in the morning.
Be On Time!
Be sure to arrive at school on time, or even a little bit early, to ensure you can accompany your child to greet the teacher and settle into the classroom without disrupting a lesson. You and your child will both feel more relaxed. Just as it’s important to arrive in the morning on time, it is equally important to arrive on time to pick up your child from school. Waiting for a late parent can be stressful for a young child – please know that your child will be eagerly awaiting your arrival at the end of the day so that he/she can share with you all of the exciting news from the classroom! Arriving on time for the end of the day pick up will help your child to feel more comfortable and confident about saying good-by to you in the morning.
Your child will pick up on your feelings about school. If you communicate that you are feeling anxious, your child will feel anxious. If you communicate confidence and a positive attitude, this will help your child to do the same. Some children smile and immediately join in when starting school, while others cry and take more time to feel comfortable. This is all within the realm of “normal”. If your child cries in the morning, please know that this does not mean that your child is not having fun or enjoying school! It has more to do with simply getting used to saying goodbye in the morning as your child adjusts to his/her new learning environment and routine.
If you have concerns about any area of school life, be sure to contact the teacher. Often concerns can be easily put to rest with open communication between home and school. Take time to discuss with your child the things that have gone well at school each day and be supportive of your child’s teachers.
The start of the school year is an exciting time for any family and child. Please know that each child is unique and adjusts to starting school differently. The above guidelines should help in providing an easier transition for moving from holiday time to school time.
Canadian International School Lakeside Campus, 7 Jurong West Street 41, Singapore 649414
Tel: (+65) 6467 1732, www.cis.edu.sg
Canadian International School Tanjong Katong Campus, 371 Tanjong Katong Road, Singapore 437128
Tel: (+65) 6345 1573, www.cis.edu.sg