By Dr Sharmeen Shroff
Psy.D. Clinical Psychology from California School of Professional Psychology, San Francisco
You’re so excited! Your child has been admitted into your top choice preschool, kindergarten or primary school. You’ve spent all summer talking about it and you sent little one off to school. But now the novelty has worn off, it feels like you and your child are at war. It may start first thing in the morning with your child hiding under their bed, or refusing to get dressed. It may only start later once you take your first step in to the new school. The tears and tantrums begin and your child clings to your side. You ask yourself, “What went wrong?”
Remember, your child is entering a new place with novel surroundings and different people. It is normal for your child put up some level of resistance. Your child may be scared, nervous or over tired – think about how you felt just before your first day at a new job.
Tips For Settling Into A New School
Here are a few tried and tested tips to help your little one adjust to a new school:
- Keep the child informed: Talk to them about the structure of the day and discuss how it differs from the routine they have been used to all summer.
- Drop them off yourself: Try to take them to school yourself. Don’t leave it up to the domestic helper or driver to take them to school. They need to be with the people they feel most safe and secure with.
- Don’t leave immediately: Spend some time familiarising your child and yourself with their new classroom and teachers. Show them toys that you think they would be particularly interested in. When you do leave, get down on the floor so you are eye to eye with your child and assure them that you will be back to collect them at the end of the day.
- Talk to the teacher: If you find your child is having difficulties separating from you, then explain this to their teachers. Often tantrums and tears are just for your benefit and they may cease once you leave the school. If you and the teacher can devise a routine for dropping your child at school it will make them feel more comfortable and secure.
- Find them a friend: Talk to other parents dropping their children off and try and arrange some play dates so your children can become familiar with each other outside the school environment. In this way they can have a buddy at school and this will help them feel more comfortable.
- Your child feeds off your vibes: You’re probably anxious about leaving your little one at school and they will sense this, which may cause them to act out more than usual. Try and remember that your child is in the hands of professionals. Their tantrums and tears are all a normal phase of development. Try and hold it together in front of your child and then if you are really concerned you can call the school an hour after you leave – hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how well they are settling in.