How to Make Your Child’s First Day at ‘Big School’ a Great One

While the first day of ‘Big School’ for you and your child can be an emotional one, there are things you can do to give this next step in your child’s journey the best chance of being a joyful and positive time.

Like many families across Sandgate, Brighton and Brisbane – who are sending their little ones off to school for the first time, you are likely building up to being ready for your child’s initial day at ‘Big School’.

This is an important milestone for you and your child, as they embark on the next step in their developmental journey.

Educators say, it’s just as big a step for the parents and caregivers, who will be at the other end of the brave goodbye kisses and cuddles, as it is for the child.

Preparing yourself and your child emotionally for the first day of school is just as important as getting their uniforms, books, and lunches ready.

Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne Associate Professor, Erica Frydenberg gave some insight into how to cope with your child’s first days of school.

“Discussing your child’s first day and what will happen creates predictability about what will occur, reduces anticipatory stress, and helps them mentally prepare for change,” Associate Professor, Erica Frydenberg said.

Further, the Sacred Heart Primary School, Sandgate Principal, Mr Julian Cotter outlined a range of tips for parents and caregivers that he had formulated over the many years in education.

“Coming into school (for the first time) is always an exciting time, full of emotions, full of anxieties, and full of the unknown,” Principal Julian Cotter said in the video above.

“When it comes to preparing yourself and your child for their first day of school, it has a lot to do with creating positive feelings about the new experience.

“Your child is going into a new environment, and knowing that they are going to have fun, make new friends, and be safe are things that you can talk to your child about before they start school.

“Children relax if they know what to expect, and having these conversations with your child will help them navigate the new and exciting world they’re about to enter.

“When you arrive at school, explore your child’s new classroom with them and make it fun and interesting – meet and chat to their teacher – discover where all their belongings go and help them unpack their bag.

“When it comes time to say goodbye – and this could be at any point during the morning depending on the classroom teacher’s preferences – the tried-and-tested ‘don’t linger’ approach is by far the best way for you to make your departure.

“Give your child a big hug, reassure them that they are going to have a wonderful first day and that you will see them after school.

“Remind them who is picking them up if it won’t be you.

“Once you have said goodbye, promptly leave, don’t linger and don’t return to the classroom after you’ve left.

“If your child is distressed, crying or physically won’t let go of you, then seek help from support staff who are on hand to help out in these circumstances.

“As important as it is to promptly leave after saying your goodbyes, it’s just as important that you never try to sneak out of the room – make sure that your child knows that you’ve gone.

“Tears are normal on the first day of school, but be assured that children commonly recover quickly once parents have left the room.

“Second or third-time parents will often attest to making sure that as a first-time parent you take time out for yourself during the school day.

“Your child is in safe hands and the school will contact you if need be.

“My final piece of advice, try to make sure your child goes to bed on time, if not earlier the evening before the big day.

“It’s a big day for the children, and they really do need adequate sleep to rest their minds and bodies in preparation for the next school day,” Mr Cotter concluded.

If you have any concerns about your child’s first day of school (even if they’re not attending Sacred Heart, Sandgate), then feel free to contact Principal Cotter directly on 1300 753 276 for a chat.

Video Transcript

First days at school for a young preppie or a family coming into school is always an exciting time, full of emotions, full of anxieties, and full of the unknown. There’s a few things, however, that families could do to help their children in the first few days of school.

For the children, they often look to mum, dad, brothers and sisters to take those cues. So if you’re nervous and you’re jittery about those first few days, especially that first day, they’ll get that feeling and it will be passed on to them. So a big thing for a family is to be calm, to be relaxed, especially on that first day, and pass on to those children that emotion that it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be safe, and they’re going to have a wonderful time with other kids on the first day.

When going into the classroom, for mum, dad, and their children, greet the teachers. The children need to see that mum and dad are friends with the teachers and vice versa. Sometimes on that first day, you’re going to have a lot of families and a lot of children coming in, so those long conversations might be better for another time. But at first, go in, greet the teacher, say hello to the others around, and then that will set up a nice tone for the first day and the first entry into the classroom.

The tone that’s set by the parents in that relationship with the teacher is something that is very important because the children take on those lessons. That relationship between parent and teacher lasts for those 13 years, and it’s especially important that communication over 13 years is open and often.

The children need to be well rested before coming in on that first day. A good night’s sleep beforehand, bags packed, everything ready to go in the morning, it won’t be a rush. If they’ve had a good night’s sleep, then going into the classroom and those big activities throughout the day, they’re going to be so much more open to whatever happens in that classroom.

And important thing, as I said before, for the family is to make sure things are prepared for that special day. A couple of days beforehand, or even the day before, you might want to pack that lunchbox and make sure that everything can be opened by the child on that first day. This is so that we don’t add to any of the anxiety on that first day.

So for my involvement to help with parents, especially on the first day or the first weeks or throughout their time at school, I’m open. If you need questions answered, come to me. I’ll be around. You’ll see me around the place. If not, phone, email, whichever way you’d like. Always, at any stage, contact me if you can’t get in contact with the teacher and ask questions.