Entering primary school is a milestone for many children. It marks the beginning of their formal education and can be a huge leap from the more relaxed setting of a kindergarten or pre-school. For some children, this change can be scary, especially on their first day in a big school building, surrounded by unfamiliar faces.
So what can you, as a parent, do to reduce the level of anxiety and stress for your child, and make it a pleasant and happy experience? According to Komala Pannirselvam, Director of Customised Programmes at Asian International College, to start the journey, parents should take the child’s viewpoint. “Every child is unique and have their own strengths and valid fears, so understand your child. Helping your child to build confidence is fundamental to one’s learning and performance, both academically and socially,” explains Komala.
The Biggest Adaptations
Getting used to a structured timetable and longer school days is a key transition for most kids. “They have to adjust from a curriculum that focuses on domains of learning (physical, intellectual, emotional and social) in pre-school to one that often emphasises on subjects (e.g. English, mother tongue, Mathematics etc.),” says Komala. There’s also the strict timing that the primary school imposes, which children need to adhere to. For example, your child needs to understand that they must be able to finish class work on time before moving on to the next lesson. Hence, parents would need to pre-empt your child that this will happen in primary school. Tell them not to panic should that happen and always inform your child to consult the teachers when they require help. Discuss school with your child but don’t get fixated with comparing your child’s performance with others. Be curious with your child and allow them to fully enjoy the learning journey. Another key adaptation is getting used to a bigger classroom environment. Your child will have to contend with having at least 30 other classmates with a multitude of personalities and idiosyncrasies. They also need to figure out how to adapt to different situations and problem solve.
The First Few Days
The first few days are the hardest for a start. Brace yourself – anticipate crying (yes, some still do) and resistance to go to school. This is normal and just a phase of life. Here’s what you can do during their first few days at primary school.
- On the first day Sleep early the night before so you and your child can get up early to have a good and relaxed breakfast. This normalises your child’s feelings of nervousness and worry, and focuses their attention on the fun aspects of attending primary school. Pass your child an encouraging note and ensure to hold back on your own tears; do not cry in front of your child.
- After the first day Continue to place encouraging notes in your child’s lunch box or wallet and get regular feedback about your child’s progress from their teacher. In the meantime, continue to have dialogues about school with your child.
- After-school activities Make reading a priority. Read to your child and ask your child to read to you, and always keep reading materials on hand for easy access. If there after-school activities for your child to participate in, do it! This will also help your child adjust better to the new school environment.
For more tips on how you can prepare your child for their primary education journey, watch the video by the Ministry of Education (MOE) here: