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My child is starting Prep… Now what…

The uniform is washed and iron, the snappy new lunch box is packed, the school bag looks ginormous on their back and you can’t believe your little baby is ready for Prep!

The first few weeks of Prep can be an emotional rollercoaster, especially for first time parents. School emails, WhatsApp parent groups, P&F emails, sports day, library day, the mental load list just grew 10 fold - it can be an overwhelming time. It is important to remember that it doesn’t have to feel overwhelming and that our little people are looking to you for guidance in how to manage new beginnings and changes. So take a deep breath, it is such an exciting time and you want to be able to enjoy this special moment. Here are some ideas that can help to support you and your child in the early days of Prep, so everyone is feeling confident and calm to begin a new school year.

A good place to start is getting them involved in the preparation the week before. Get the lunch box and drink bottle together, practice opening containers and especially those yoghurt squeezy things! There is always a long queue on the first few days at recess to have yoghurts opened. So get into the habit of opening their own containers at home, practising using zips, tying shoelaces and even taking off jumpers by themselves. Every little bit of independence you can encourage will help them to feel confident in being a big school kid.

You might find some tears when saying goodbye in the first few days, or this could come at a later stage in the term. Trust us, they are okay after you leave. As hard as it is to walk away from a crying child, trust your teacher to guide and support you to transition your child into their care. In the weeks leading up to the first day talk about how fun school will be and all the great activities that they will get to do and the new people they will meet. Even if you have your own worries or concerns (it is ok to have worries), it is essential that you don’t pass your emotions onto your child. Talk it out with a friend or someone you trust rather than with your child. If they have worries let them lead the conversation and offer suggestions to help move past the worries.

Sleep patterns can change over holiday periods so getting back into a regular routine the week or two before will make getting up easier when school starts (even teachers need to do this!). Preps get very tired and they work hard during the day learning so many new things. It is important to be aware that emotional outbursts may occur in the first few weeks. A good night’s sleep and set night time routines will help their overall wellbeing to tackle the busy day at school.

All preps start at a different stage of learning and that’s ok. Some come in ready to recite Harry Potter, some come in writing their name or the first letter of their name and some come in writing nothing at all - all of this is ok!! They are at school to learn, that’s the point. If they already knew how to do everything we would be out of a job! By Grade 6 no-one is going to remember who read well in Prep! Try not to get caught up in the academic competition that can take place in the early years of school. Just like all children learn to walk and talk at different stages, they will learn to read and write in their own time. Try not to get caught up in the academic competition as it will only add to the unwanted stresses and unhelpful thinking that won’t make anyone feel good.

Getting caught up in the carpark gossip conversations is just not needed. If you have concerns, have a chat with your teacher and seek advice on what you can do to assist your child. But give space and see how things are travelling after Term 1. The most important thing during Term 1 of Prep is that they feel safe and happy and are playing and making friends. If they are coming home happy, that is the most important thing.

Sometimes Preps will play alongside others or they will play in a sport activity in a small group (attempt a footy game like the big kids). They will have bad days and good days, but something to be mindful of is don't necessarily believe everything your child says. Remember they are little and at times can be prone to catastrophising a situation, especially if it didn’t go their way. All children are learning to make friends and play together. Depending on your school's play space setup this will impact what they choose to play. I can assure you that your children aren’t left alone in the wilderness roaming. Most schools have buddy programs to support children's play on the playground. They can seem so big when compared to their kinder play spaces. Remember that a small amount of discomfort in a day is a good thing, life isn’t perfect and sometimes their day won’t be, and that's ok. If they keep coming home and saying it, encourage them to think about a solution to the problem, “Do you know how to find friends to play with?”, “How could you make it better?” This will help to encourage problem solving behaviours. When in doubt, just check in with the teacher and keep encouraging your child to solve the problem.

Each school has different expectations for home tasks. Check-in and know what the expectations are. It might just be to read with your child each night. Let your child lead this process. If you start Prep getting into “homework’ battles it won’t be fun for anyone. They spend the day busy learning so be patient with your children if they find it difficult getting into the reader or some counting at night. It's early days and is common.

Just remember don’t sweat the small stuff! You might forget to pack the library bag, or sign the reader, it's fine, it’s the first few weeks. We are all getting used to the routine and it will be ok!

Teachers understand that just as the kids are learning you are learning too, before you know it you will feel right at home amongst it all. If in doubt, reach out to the teachers, they are there to support you and your child. Enjoy the special milestone of the moment and know that it will be ok, just don’t forget to breathe!

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