If your child is starting primary school this year, here are some suggestions that you can use to boost confidence and ease anxiety.
What to say: “You’ll really enjoy your new school.”
How it helps: Whenever your child is anxious, she looks to see if you’re feeling uneasy, too – that’s her natural response. So it’s helpful if you have a positive attitude and a smile on your face. Your reassuring remarks, upbeat outlook and confidence in her abilities all help to lift her confidence.
What to say: “Here’s some information about your new school.”
How it helps: A few weeks before the starting date, remind your child that she will soon be joining a new school. Tell her about some of the new learning activities and show her the school handbook. Arrange for her to talk to one of your friend’s older children who are there.
What to say: “Let’s visit the school to have a look around.”
How it helps: All primary schools hold an orientation day for the incoming Primary 1 cohort, so make sure you attend it with her. She will be able to walk around the school, inside and out, and perhaps see her actual classroom. This increases her sense of security and makes her feel more confident about attending it.
What to say: “We’ll meet your new teachers before the term starts.”
How it helps: She will be more confident about the move once she has met some teachers. Even if she talks to them for just a minute or so during the orientation, this will be enough to ease any potential worries she might have. Afterwards, tell your child how much you liked the teachers.
What to say: “The school building is so nice.”
How it helps: As well as visiting her classroom, make sure your kid also views the toilet and canteen. Young children are often highly sensitive about toilets and may be anxious that they are too large, too public or too dirty. She’ll be reassured that they are easily accessible and clean.
What to say: “You are very popular and you’ll make plenty of new friends.”
How it helps: You or your kindergartener probably know other children who’ll be in her primary school. Contact their parents to arrange for her to play with them before starting school. Or make friends during the orientation, so you can arrange play dates with some of her new classmates.
What to say: “I’m going to watch closely to make sure you have a good start there.”
How it helps: Her confidence will be boosted when she knows you are going to take a particular interest in her progress during the settling in period. At the end of each day, when you pick her up from school, chat about what she did that day. Your interest keeps her motivation high, and enables you to monitor her progress.
What to say: “You’ll be fine, but I’ll help you settle in anyway.”
How it helps: It’s important for her to know that you’ll be there for her if she runs into difficulties, whether that’s problems with the curriculum or with making new friends. Most likely, she’ll make a smooth move. But if you do discover that things aren’t going well, support her and sort things out.
Dr Richard C. Woolfson, Young Parents, December 2015