Preparing Your Child for Their First Day at School at ISSP

By: JK Hobson

First days can be rough. Adults can become anxiety-ridden when trying something for the first time, even when they possess the sagacity that tells them “don’t panic”. Children on the other hand are still developing this wisdom and can feel trepidation about their first day at school. Sensing this, parents can also become filled with worry for their children as they struggle with the reality of having their child leave home for what might be the first time ever, even if just for a few hours. For all of these reasons, it is important that parents not only prepare their children, but prepare themselves for the inevitable rite of passage of a child’s first day at school.

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Rae Lang, Deputy Head of International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP), which is the only early years and elementary school in Vietnam that is fully accredited by both CIS & NEASC, has outlined a course of action that parents can take to best prepare their young ones for this transition, with tips for preparing children for their learning journey.

Positive Language Plays a Role

Often, parents’ concerns about their children starting school have more to do with bigger picture matters, such as the school’s curriculum, the teachers’ qualifications, the safety of their children or simply their child’s happiness and ability to adapt. While these questions and concerns are important, parents also need to consider other key matters.

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Children’s education begins from the time they are born. Parents are a child’s first teachers. The way children think and feel about school will be influenced by the actions and experiences parents provide during their early upbringing. It is for this reason that parents need to take on a positive and enthusiastic attitude about the transition from a child being reared at home to entering into the school system. Parents can focus on talking positively to their children about their experiences at school.

Seeing the positive attitudes of their friends, older siblings, and other relatives who attend school have a clear advantage in that they can have the kinds of encouraging these conversations. Books can help to quell children’s anxiety about school. Reading books about the first day at school  is a great way to help reduce the anxiety as well as to help your child understand it is okay to feel this way. It also opens the door to discussions about how your child may be feeling so that parents can reassure their child.

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Early Steps for Success

Having your child attend Early Years education is one way to support your child’s learning journey. Look for a school that focuses on physical, social and emotional developmental milestones, and provides opportunities for your child to engage with others.

These developmental milestones will support them in kindergarten as well as their future educational journey.

“Children who are exposed to an engaging environment where there are plenty of opportunities for social activities, rich oral language, time for exploration and interactive experiences such as taking visits to parks, outdoor playgrounds or zoos, will be ready for kindergarten. This may be in the home environment or an Early Years schooling environment”, Lang advised.

Parents can also take actions at home to build the kind of attitudes in their children that will make them successful, life-long learners. At home, parents can encourage independence and responsibility by allowing the child to eat by themselves, dress themselves, pack their own bag, make their own bed, or be responsible for tidying up their room.

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These actions are key to not only building a child’s sense of order, but are also integral to developing children’s overall character. Lang said, “At ISSP, a child is given many opportunities to build their character. Opportunities are infused into the curriculum to develop the soft skills of friendship, perseverance, resilience, leadership, responsibility and cooperation”.

Acknowledge Apprehension to Overcome it

Children’s apprehension about their first day at school should not be downplayed. Rather, it is important to validate children’s unease. Children should be encouraged not to ignore these feelings but to explore them. Parents who avoid talking about their child’s first day of school can do more harm than good. The old geometry rule says, “The quickest way between points is a straight line”. Kids must be taught at an early age that many experiences that seem frightening at first are also doorways to future victories when faced fearlessly and with a sense of purpose.

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For a child, whose entire life had been spent under the watchful eye and supervision of its parents, the first day can be accompanied by feelings of uncertainty, and most of all insecurity. Lang said, “The best way to prepare your child is to reassure them and talk to them about what the first day may be like. Reassure them that you will be there to pick them up when the school day is over, even go to the school prior to the start day and show them where you will wait for them”.

Children's’ minds can be put at ease by letting them know ahead of time what their schedule will be like at school. Give them a timeline and tell them when their school day will begin and end. You can also bring your child to the school ahead of time before his or her classes actually start and introduce them to the teacher.

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Bestow your child with the understanding that they’re not being abandoned, they’re just off on their own solo adventure! The first of many!

How to Know if Your Child is Happy at School

The decompression process after a child’s first day at school is an important one, and has much to do with their attitude about returning in the days following. Lang said, “When your child arrives home ask them how their day went. ‘What was something funny that happened at school?’ ‘Was there something you found difficult to learn, and how can we make it easier for you to understand it?’” From these questions, you will be able to fathom how your child is feeling about school.

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Be aware of any signs that will let you know if your child is having troubles at school. Lang said, “All children are different and express themselves differently. As a parent you know your child and will be able to notice anything unusual, or slightly out of character. It is important to keep an open line of communication with your teacher”.

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Image source: ISSP

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