28 Sep Ready for Prep?
Is your child ready?
Knowing if your child is ready for prep is a question that can cause anxiety for many parents, particularly those who have children born towards the end of the school-age cut off. Whilst many parents focus on whether their child can count, write their name and prior to prep, these are not key issues for a successful start to school. It is much more important that parents support their child to become emotionally ready and independent, so that the child a good position to engage in formal academic learning.
In the lead up to school it is helpful for parents to take a step back, so their child can build self confidence in completing some simple tasks independently. For example, encouraging children to pack their own bag, help put things away, set the table or get dressed for kindy all help build children’s confidence. Basic tasks also provide children with practice in following simple instructions in preparation for listening to the teacher in the classroom, and doing as they are told. Whilst most prep classes have a support teacher, the transition to school means that children have to work a lot more independently than they would at home when engaging in tasks. It can be tempting to jump in and help if your child is struggling with a puzzle or building lego, for example, but sometimes it can be best to let the child persist for a while before asking if they need help. If they succeed with a task independently it does wonders for their self-confidence. It also provides an opportunity for children to practice problem solving and knowing when to ask for help, which are useful skills in the classroom.
Being able to cooperate with other children and function harmoniously in a group is another area which contributes significantly to a smooth school transition. Children, who get along with others, engage in shared play and can resolve minor disagreements without adult intervention, will be much more resilient in the playground. Parents can help children develop play skills through encouraging them to practice taking turns and sharing resources with other children, or support them by giving them the words to join in a game with new children at the park.
As adults we will often allow children to win at games but it is more helpful to provide them with experience of how to cope with the disappointment of losing and celebrating the success of others. Given that entry to school is when most children have their first experience of formal competition via sports carnivals and merit awards, some experience of winning and losing even through simple card or board games can be useful.
School is the beginning of a long educational adventure and children’s enthusiasm can vary a great deal throughout the journey. If your child is having second thoughts about their time in prep, stay positive, talk to them about their worries and check in with their teacher. No two children are the same and in many cases some children just take a little longer to settle into the educational journey than others. For those children (and parents) that may be experiencing more persistent worries talk to your school about what services are available that can help.
Julie Steward – Psychologist