Tips to prepare your child for new school year

Graphic: Tips to prepare your child for new school year

Preparing children and yourself for the new school year

Date published

29 Jan 2024

The new year brings about new opportunities; and for children and young people, this can mean starting a new school, leaving home or returning to school.

For some there is excitement and for others hesitation and worries. Often excitement and fear are two feelings that are closely felt at the same time and can be confusing for children and young people.

Parents also can experience mixed feelings about their children staring school or moving away. It's an adjustment to have other adults in the carer role during the schooling year. It can also be challenging not knowing how your children might feel when you leave them at school or the boarding house.

Here are five suggestions of things to do to help with the adjustment:

1. Acknowledge feelings:

Try not to dismiss a child’s feelings – acknowledge their worries or excitement, answer their questions in an age-appropriate manner. Talk with your child about what to expect across the whole day, whom they might speak to if they need support, read books about going to school, and for older children make plans of how you will stay in contact.

2. Foster independence:

Help your child to develop independence; practice opening their own lunch box, peeling food, opening packets, to care for their own belongings and to prepare for the school day. Practise putting on their school uniform prior to the first day, this ensures they have everything they need and can feel comfortable. Starting school can be overwhelming in the first few weeks and your child may be tired. Having snacks and drinks in the afternoon on pick-up and giving them time to relax before asking them about their day can assist through co-regulation.

3. Start new routines early:

Develop sleeping patterns at least a week before school going back. Bedtime routines ensure children are getting enough sleep and might include reading with them, tucking them in, having a warm cup of milk, or a shower/bath before bed. Practice morning routines – be with them in the moment and try not to hurry them in the morning, give them time, and plan ahead the new routines.

4. Use play to practice social skills:

Encourage children to play across all ages – play allows children to practice skills. For example board games provide practice in turn taking, winning, losing and following instructions. Pretend play fosters important social skills like negotiating roles. Play can bring positive emotions, and time together as a family encourages conversations and fun.

5. Lean on your network for support:

If you are concerned about how your child or young person is responding to the new routines and being away from home, reach out to the school to seek support. Other parents can be a good support, and don’t forget to take time to look after yourself.