The first weeks of school can be an emotional time for many parents, but you have done the hardest part choosing a school! Now, you have to trust them and their team. Understanding how to support your child is vital; there’s been misconception over time about how to prepare your child. Currently, the bigger focus is on social, emotional and communication skills. Ashlee Steward from Arcadia shares some tips to help your child settle at school.
How to help your children settle at school?
1| Brief and calm goodbyes
Some children will cling to you and might not want to say goodbye, and this is ok too. It is so important to consider the way you say goodbye to your child, as this can impact their day. It can help to keep goodbyes brief and calm as it will encourage your children to model your calmness; avoiding behaviors that may trigger them to get upset. We always encourage our parents to engage in a quick but calm and positive drop off. It is also important as a parent/carer leaves not to look back, as this can often communicate mixed emotions to your children. We understand that it can be an emotional time for parents, especially during the first few weeks, but it is important to try your best not to project such emotion onto your children as it can impact their day and affect transition.
Our team always offers the utmost support to our parents, through face-to-face guidance and daily communication to ensure all children benefit and have the best start to their education. We also offer a parent workshop with our counseling team during the first week of term and record this for working parents. This is shared via our FS community and whole school newsletters. All our teachers also hold a back to school zoom to answer any remaining questions and ensure all parents have an opportunity to speak to their teacher.
2| Staggered start
At Arcadia, we always have a staggered start; this is also known as a soft drop off. Your teacher may suggest during or after this time that you drop at the door and always remind your child that you will return. We understand how difficult it can be to manage life and business, especially in Dubai. We have an amazing community of families, and we always strive to support parents in preparing for school and settling in. On top of this, we have a dedicated counseling team who work in close partnership with our FS department, especially during the staggered start.
Leave your child with an adult, not just at an activity. And remind them that you will come back for them or let them know who to expect at collection. It’s then our job to make your child feel comfortable and safe. We have had the full support of our counseling team during morning drop offs to support separation issues. This is something we pride ourselves on, given our Head counselor is also an early year’s specialist.
4| Communication is key
Most schools will have a communication or documentation tool, they may even have several! These are key in helping your children settle in school, as they provide you with updates from the classroom. Whether your teacher shares videos or pictures, you can use these in your daily routine to introduce your children to the environment and their new class peers. This is particularly important with children that speak multiple languages or have difficulty separating from their main carer as it will enable them to get familiar with the children that they will be playing around, and, eventually with.
5| Familiarize yourself
At Arcadia School we have stay and play sessions prior to the term starting. These provide a fantastic opportunity for children to explore the environment and meet other children and families. It helps to ensure your child feels comfortable with their new environment as the surroundings and adults are familiar to them. This is a vital step in helping your children feel safe and secure, which is important at the start of their educational journey. It provided many of our families the opportunity to get to know one another prior to the holidays. It is just as important that our families are comfortable as parents need to be comfortable too! This community is what we pride ourselves on and we have already seen the benefits as we start our first full week (and many of the children are settling quicker than before).
We will continue to build upon this each year as we recognize the benefits it has for children and their confidence, including speeding up the settling-in process in a positive way. To continue to support your children settling in, as a family you can drive or walk past the school depending upon your home location. You can also ask the teacher if you could take a photo of them and your child; place it somewhere familiar – fridge. They will quickly become an extension of your family!
6| Be positive!
Talk about school positively! Your children can recognize anxiety and stress more than you think, whilst starting school can be overwhelming, it is important to try to focus on the positive things with your children. If you have worries or concerns, discuss them privately in the home and then contact your teacher if needed. Avoid talking negatively in front of your children as they will follow suit. And if you’re positive about school, the children will notice!
At home, this is a wonderful opportunity to spend uninterrupted time asking simple questions about your child’s school day. Don’t be discouraged if your child just replies “played” or “play” when you ask what they did at school, this is normal.
8| Play dates
Once your children have started to settle into the school, your teacher may start to let you know who your child likes to play with. With this information, you could organize play dates with other families; this will help build friendships outside of school and you will have an opportunity to talk to other parents.
All our teachers ensure they have a variety of books across their provision that the children can access independently or with support. Such books include stories about mummies and daddies coming back to support their understanding of the school day.
10| Toilet accidents
Some children may go backwards before they go forwards, and this is normal. This includes toileting accidents; practice with your children at home asking adults for help when they need something. Again, be patient! Remember, there’s a reason you chose the school you have, that goes beyond the convenience of the location. So, trust your team and school, if you have any questions your teacher will be more than happy to answer them!
11| Be patient
A common question is, “how long will it take for my child to settle in?” As early years specialists, we understand that every child is unique, as is their experience. All children adapt to new things at different rates and your home circumstance will also impact this. For example, we have lots of parents who travel for work and whilst it becomes the norm in the household to leave and come back, we often forget to remind the children of that. So, if you are a pilot, or traveling for business; involve your children in packing your bag. Remind them that you can see what they are doing in school. You can show them examples of class pictures you have on your school communication tool; this will help them understand that you can speak to the teacher and that you will be back.