Sending a child to school for the first time is an emotional and scary process for the child and the parents. Parents should be on guard and ready to expect a few changes and a lot of surprises.
Ms Sarah Pradit, playgroup teacher, right, helps a new student, Kijchunhakan Hongsombud, aka ‘Austin’, to take his first steps at Little Dragons International School. PHEANPHON KAMJUNDA
Where are mom and dad?
At Little Dragons International School (Little Dragons), we like to point out what first timers may expect and why students react the way they do to (a new) school and what new pupils may react to.
For example, most toddlers cry a lot when they are first separated from their parents. This is partly so because before the age of two, the little ones do not have the requisite cognitive reasoning to know that mummy and daddy will be coming back. Younger children often equate temporary absence with gone forever.
This is why the majority of children starting school cry a bit during the first couple of weeks of school. This is perfectly normal. However, the child soon realises that, amazingly, mummy and daddy really do reappear.
I'm sorry, my nanny
does that for me
Sometimes, children experience trouble sleeping because of the completely different situation they have to adapt to during their initial weeks at (a new) school. Once at school, children must fit into an unfamiliar routine, share the adults' attention and learn to socialise with total strangers and other children of similar age.
Children often do not eat the school food, perhaps because it is so different from what is served at home.
Most of our new students come from homes where nannies and mummies do most of the work for the children. At Little Dragons, we encourage students to look after themselves and be independent. But even so, it is not a surprise that a few students reject the often unfamiliar idea of self-help and self-sufficiency.
Feeding oneself is a very big step to take, and by refusing to eat, the students are just expressing their protest (to having to feed themselves).
At Little Dragons, we like to offer advice to the parents of our new students on how to make the transition as smooth as possible, and, as with most situations, we start with communication.
First, parents should find out everything they can about the school and the staff that will be working with their child - not just whether the school has school buses or the cost of tuition, but be proactive and learn the names of the teachers and support staff who will be working with their child.
Also, after a few days, parents should have regular "conversations" with their children about what activities they do in school each day and about their child's relationship with their teachers and teacher assistants.
Even if the child is only one or two, hearing an adult refer to school in a positive light can do wonders for a child's confidence after he or she enrols in school.
Parental dos and don'ts
Parents sometimes believe that the first days of school are all about the children. This is not the case, as parents need to prepare themselves to a great extent, too. Parents must mentally prepare themselves to "let go" on the first day and during the first weeks of school. If children sense that their mummy or daddy is upset or stressed, they will automatically react negatively in return. Positive body language can do wonders to support a children's first steps into the classroom. And be sure to reassure your child that you will most definitely return each day to pick them up, and then try to always be prompt in retrieving your child or to be there to greet him or her with a smile and a hug when the school bus returns, if possible.
Little Dragons International School, like many other fine nursery schools in Thailand, offers the chance for parents to sit in on the classes during the first couple of days. Consider taking advantage of this opportunity.
However, it is beneficial to remember that students must learn to be comfortable with the rule, "School is for me, home is for mummy and daddy". By coming into the classroom, even for just one or two days in the beginning, parents may confuse this boundary for their children. Eventually, when a parent stops coming in, the child may become more upset than if the parent hadn't visited in the first place.
If parents are going to remain in the school for a short time, then Little Dragons has some golden rules that may be helpful for parents. We ask that parents encourage their children to follow the school's routine. If the child can see that mummy respects the teacher, then he or she will follow suit.
Finally, it is not a good idea for observing parents to just sneak away. Instead, an exiting parent should confidently inform their children that "mummy is going to work now, but I will come back to pick you up at 3 o'clock", and then walk away and ignore the probable tantrum. Running back when the children cry only shows the children that they can get what they want with tears.
In general, the settling-in process takes about two weeks. After that, the children should enjoy coming to school.
This step is a very big and important one for children and their parents, and at Little Dragons International School we endeavour to make sure that this big step is as pleasant as possible for everybody.
For more information on Little Dragons International School, email email@example.com, visit http://www.ldis.ac.th or call 02-924-8138.
About the author
- Writer: Sarah Pradit