Taking the stress out of starting “big school” – FREE leaflet entitled “Going to Big School”

A free leaflet to support parents with children starting primary school entitled “Going to Big School” has been published online today by Early Childhood Ireland and the National Parents Council Primary (NPC). The handy guide, which is available online from www.earlychildhoodireland.ie and www.npc.ie, says that often it is the parents who are overwhelmed and have to hold back the tears as their child takes this next step on life’s journey into primary school. Not forgetting the 3 and 4 year olds starting preschool this and next week, Early Childhood Ireland has also published a free leaflet “Going to Preschool”.

“Going to Big School” reminds parents that their child’s time in preschool has already started the preparation for “Big School” and many children have little trouble with the transition, while others can find this time stressful. For children the primary school buildings are bigger with more rooms, more children, more adults and more rules. For parents the next few weeks can be a stressful time as they wonder if their child will manage on their own, will they make friends, be able to sit and listen, cope with the school yard etc.?

First day tips include:

1. Have clothes, uniform and shoes clean and ready.
2. Eat a good breakfast – learning requires energy and enthusiasm.
3. Have your child’s name on all their belongings – they will be confident in recognising their own name.
4. Have their lunch and/or healthy snacks ready along with an easy to open lunch box.
5. Know your route to the school – if time or distance allows why not walk?
6. On reaching the door, smile and talk with the teacher in a friendly way. Relax and don’t fuss. Let your child know that you’re confident that they can manage. Remember that your child is alert to the emotional messages you send out, so don’t panic and don’t let the child see you crying. (If they do, explain that you are crying because this is a happy day).
7. Help your child find a seat and hang up their coat. In a new situation, your child may want to hold onto their school bag or put it down beside their chair.
8. Support your child to connect with other children around the table with a simple ‘hello’. Let you child know when you are leaving and assure him/her you will be back to collect them at the end of the school day.
9. If your child is fine going in on the first day, just walk away and don’t look for problems where none exist. The majority of children will sail in, no problem. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee and a little treat – this is a big day for you too!
10. If your child does cry going in, follow the lead of the teacher. Often children who come in the door crying are okay and laughing five minutes later. Rest assured that if your child is not settling the teacher will contact you.
11. Make sure to return for pick up on time as children can fret when they see other children leave before them.
12. Make sure you are not under time constraints in those first few days. It may take a few minutes to help them settle in – so make sure you have that flexibility. It is important that your child doesn’t fee pressurised or hurried.
13. Don’t expect the teacher to give you detailed feedback in the first two weeks when the whole group is really settling in. If there is any problem teacher will let you know.
14. Ensure your child gets enough sleep and has a good balanced diet – new routines make extra demands on children.

Welcoming the publication of this new booklet, Irene Gunning, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland said, “We were delighted to work with the National Parents Council on this leaflet which helps parents to get themselves and their child ready both logistically and emotionally for big school. Of course, the groundwork has already been done in preschool and that’s a great help. In addition to organising uniforms, booklists and school bags, parents should take the time to chat to their child about school as a place to meet new friends and do new things, as well as encouraging their questions and feelings about starting school.”

Áine Lynch, CEO of the National Parents Council Primary said, “ It is important to recognize that this leaflet is a result of a collaboration between the NPC and Early Childhood Ireland. Transitions in children’s lives can be difficult for both children and parents and that is why it is so important that families support services are working together to ensure that advice and support is consistent and clear. We wish all the children starting school for the first time this school year many happy years of learning and developing through their educational lives.”

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