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Advice for parents with children starting school in September

Sending your little one to primary school for the first time can be emotional and stressful, and we understand it may be even more so this year.

Schools closed as part of the national lockdown in March with only some primary and secondary schools partially reopening for a limited number of year groups during the summer term.

Following this, the government has announced that all primary and secondary schools will fully reopen in September this year.

And while that may seem daunting for some, remember your child wants and needs to return to class so they can learn and be with children their own age.

In addition, all schools are already working on making sure it is safe to reopen and are busy putting in place plans to safeguard against Covid-19.

Sally Oyeyele, School Nurse – our Clinical Practice Lead in Lancashire, is urging parents to ensure they are fully prepared and get all the information they need from their school ahead of the September start.

And she has added that parents with concerns should try to avoid letting their children know of these as it could lead to them becoming anxious.

Sally said: “School is so important for children and they need to continue their education for a whole manner of social, educational and emotional reasons.

“Closing schools at the start of the pandemic was the only thing we could do, but they need to go to class, see children their own age and learn important life skills.

“I would say to any parent sending their child to school in September to make sure they are getting all the information they need from their school as all will be putting in place a range of different measures to suit their individual locations. Parents should also make sure they sign up for all emails, texts, newsletters etc so they are getting all the up to date info ahead of schools starting..

“Remember, many schools are already planning how they will reopen and will be putting in place measures such as staggered start times, specific entrances and exits for specific year groups and details around how groups of children will form a bubble with a limited number of other children – all ways of significantly lowering the chance of infection.

“Importantly, I would also say to all parents that if you are stressed about school don’t let your children know or see this and please do try to remain calm around them.

“Children feed off their parents’ emotions and obviously you don’t want them to suffer anxiety.”

Sally added that if a parent or child or any member of their household present any symptomatic signs of Covid-19 they must isolate, not send their children to school, inform them of the reason and get tested.

She said: “Most importantly, I would urge parents to remember that children want to go back to school. They need to meet friends, build links with others and grow.”

We run the Lancashire 0-19 service which has more than 400 health visitors, school nurses and other health professionals who provide services on behalf of Lancashire County Council.

Links for more information

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/education-and-childcare

www.nhs.uk-cornavirus  

Extra Information for parents with children starting primary school for the first time

Establish good, consistent routines

Routines provide children with stability, consistency and comfort. They also help children navigate change. Here are a few routines you could adopt with your child to support them during the transition to school:

  • A good bedtime routine – a good night’s sleep helps children prepare for the day ahead.
  • Change meal times – so they are similar to the school day.
  • A goodbye routine – say goodbye the same way each day, maybe adopt a silly handshake, a kiss or a big squeeze.

Encourage self-care and independence

Self-care and personal skills are really important when starting school. Your child will settle in to school easier if they have good self-care skills, as this promotes independence and confidence. Additionally, children feel a real sense of achievement when they can accomplish things by themselves. Support your child to:

  • Toilet independently – this includes wiping correctly, flushing the toilet and washing and drying hands. Encourage your child to feel confident when using the toilet. If they find toileting difficult, make sure they are drinking plenty of water, around 6-8 glasses per day, and cut out fizzy drinks and juice as these can irritate the bladder. Also be consistent, give simple instructions and provide loose fitting clothing. But most of all, be positive and offer lots of praise – sticker charts are a brilliant way to celebrate success.
  • Getting dressed and undressed.
  • Putting on and taking of their coat and shoes.
  • Try encouraging your child to complete some everyday tasks independently – like tidying their toys away or maybe they could set the table for dinner?

Talk through any concerns

The idea of change can be scary, especially for our little ones. That’s why it is important to talk. Talking can help ease those preschool nerves and worries. Discuss school as a positive and make the conversation light and relaxed. Here are some good times to talk to your child:

  • While reading a book – reading gives children a good platform to discuss their feelings and emotions. There are lots of fantastic books available about starting school.
  • Make it casual and comfortable – often children find the idea of a conversation scary so make it informal and relaxed. Maybe go for a walk, paint a picture or do some baking and initiate a positive chat about school.

Promote an active and healthy lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy weight is really important for children as it boots self-esteem, stimulates brain development and improves mental health. Furthermore, a holistic approach to healthy eating supports your child in making healthy choices throughout adulthood. Here are some tips on promoting an active and healthy lifestyle for your child:

  • Swap the sugar – substitute the fizzy pop for water, low fat milk or sugar free drinks.
  • Use The Eatwell Guide, which shows how much we eat should come from each food group in order to maintain a healthy balanced diet.
  • Try a ‘fake away’ instead of a take away. These provide a healthier alternative.
  • Encourage your child to have their five a day.
  • Children should aim for around 60 minutes of exercise per day- so keep it fun, make up silly dances, go for a scavenger hunt, jump up and down on a trampoline, have running races, go to the local park or play some games in the garden.

Talk to your chosen school

Typically schools hold transition days but due to the current circumstances this hasn’t been possible. This has naturally heightened the anxieties and apprehensions of some parents and children. If this applies to you don’t worry, your chosen school is there to support and assure you both. It is a good idea to contact your school and see what alternative provision the teaching staff have put into place.

Use every day experiences as learning opportunities

Children are learning all the time, and the opportunity to learn is everywhere. Even the most tedious of tasks can be a fun learning experience for your child. For example, a trip to the supermarket can provide an opportunity to improve their maths by helping mummy pick three bananas. Additionally, you could help improve your child’s language and communication skills by reading together. Reading sparks imagination and is fundamental in preparing your child for school as it provides a great basis for learning initial sounds and words. Furthermore, you could develop your child’s gross motor skills through outdoor play, maybe set up a mini obstacle course in your back garden, or have use some giant chalks to make hop scotch to improve balance and co-ordination. Children learn best through play and experiential learning experiences. So make it fun and interactive.

Check that your child is up to date with all immunisations

Before your child starts school, ensure they are up to date with their immunisations.

The pre-school booster is usually given around three years after the last primary immunisations (age 16 weeks). This means all children should receive pre-school boosters well before they start school. The pre-school booster offers children further immunity and protection against diptheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.

Appointments for this vaccine are sent out and immunisations are given at the GP surgery. If your child has missed having theirs, book an appointment.

Make the school transition a fun and positive experience

Encourage a happy, positive, fun transition experience for your child. This will help them cope successfully with any future changes. Try singing songs about school together – you can also add actions which will promote fine and gross motor skills. Singing is a fun activity which promotes good mental health and is also an enjoyable way to help children remember important information.

In addition, you could get creative and assist your child with completing an ‘all about me’ book which they could take with them on their first day. You could fill it with your child’s likes, dislikes, family members etc. It is a nice personal way for the teaching staff to get to know your child.

Finally, it might be a nice idea to make a school role play area at home; maybe establish your own mini school where you can make a pretend register, ask your child to sit on the carpet for story time or do PE in the garden. But most of all be positive when talking about school, children pick up on negative attitudes which will increase their levels of concern.

Be organised

Before the first day, know what time school starts and finishes and make arrangements in advance for school drop off and pick up.  Also make a list of all the things your child will need, for example PE kit, book bag, water bottle, waterproofs and wellies etc.  It is also a good idea to run through the morning routine, and do a practise trip to school. You could maybe adopt a visual timetable or make a weekly ‘to do’ list.

Furthermore, label everything that your child takes to school. This is really important as it saves you money, helps your child take account for their belongings but most importantly stops things from getting lost. There are some bright and colourful personalised stickers and labels available online, or just apply a good old fashioned biro. Finally, remember if you are prepared and organised this will help you and your child start school stress free and with a smile.

Seek advice, information & support from professionals if needed

If you need any further support regarding school readiness please contact us on 0300 247 0040 and book on one of our Ready Steady School sessions. The aim of this group is to provide parents with additional support, advice or information in relation to school readiness. You will have the opportunity to ask professionals questions and come together with other parents who need similar support.

Or alternatively you could visit here: https://lancsyoungpeoplefamilyservice.co.uk/ and find out more about what our service has to offer. As well as lots of fantastic school readiness resources.

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