Ways to ease first-day jitters

FOR children, their parents and carers, anxieties are part and parcel of the transition to "big school".

Paediatrician Joanne Ging said parents and carers were often anxious about the way their child will cope at school and the way they themselves would be perceived by other parents.

For new kindy children, first-day jitters and anxiety about being away from their parents or siblings, and tiredness were common.

"Even if they have been attending day care for long hours they become more tired at school due to the increase in concentration and learning so many new things," Dr Ging said.

To smooth the transition she recommends parents "visit the school several times before the first day, even practising the route so that it becomes familiar".

"Talk to them about school in a positive manner often and try getting them to imagine different scenarios such as playing in the grounds, eating their lunch and making new friends," she said.

"They should go to bed at a reasonable time each night. Make sure there is plenty of rest and play time after school and on weekends.

"Be on time or early — particularly in the beginning — to decrease anxiety."

Dr Ging said a good first experience of school helped children to see learning as a positive part of their lives and a fun thing to do.

"It is vital to not make this a negative experience as schooling is for a long time," she said.

"Often very small things going wrong can seem the end of the world for a child in kindergarten so it is important to let them discuss what happened, help them to put it into perspective then discuss how they will manage this if it happensagain."

Parents may also have to grapple with high expectations and a feeling of emptiness or not knowing what to do when the child is at school.

"It is a busy time for parents as well so it is important they look after themselves," Dr Ging said.

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