Clinical psychologist Dr Vaani Gunaseelan of Think Psychological Services, notes that your child’s first-day fears can be caused by various factors, including:
* Being away from you or their caregiver for a longer period of time as compared to preschool.
* Meeting their teachers for the first time.
* Fearing that other children may not like them or of not being able to fit in.
* Navigating an unfamiliar place on their own.
Preparing your child for Primary 1 well will relieve their anxiety and ensure that they’ll settle in without any hiccups. Helping your child cultivate vital skills they’ll need to apply daily in school — such as buying their own food and packing his bag will help, too. Try our suggestions in this handy guide.
“[Reading these] books helps to validate their fears and prepare them for what to expect on their first day at school.”
Dr Vaani shares simple activities you can do to help junior cope with their first-day nerves:
1) Create goodbye and hello rituals Try sharing a certain song, rhyme and greeting that you and your child say or sing when they go to school and another one when you pick them up. Dr Vaani says, “These will be significant [part] of your child’s day and having a brief ritual that you share with them will give them comfort.”
2) Give them a small personalised object It can be as simple as a small pebble or a keychain they can carry to school. The idea is that holding it can give them a sense of comfort if they feel nervous while at school, says Dr Vaani. You could also give your child a small family photo that they can keep in their wallet to look at whenever they are feeling down.
3) Get to know the school routines As in preschool, you should begin adjusting your routines at home to match your child’s school schedule. This will help junior transition better to starting school as they will already be familiar with the routine.
4) Do a dry run Practise how your child should act when they socialise with the other kids. You can role-play with them step-by-step from the time you drop them off at school, to how they will interact with their peers and teachers, to the time you pick them up. To make things more interesting, you can take on different roles for example, you can play the role of their teacher or peer, says Dr Vaani.
5) Read books Pore over age-appropriate books with them about going to school. Dr Vaani points out that books like First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg or The New Bear at School by Carrie Weston may help. “[Reading these] books helps to validate their fears and prepare them for what to expect on their first day at school.” As they know what to expect, they are less likely to feel anxious.
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