Tackling anxiety around starting primary school


As parents, we’re often far more anxious than our children about what they have to face. After all, we’ve been there and we know what’s about to happen! It’s easy to forget that our children are resilient little beings and far tougher than we give them credit for. 

If your child is going to start primary school, or move to a new school soon you will be dealing with a lot of ‘firsts’. It’s the first time you’ll truly consider the logistical impact of shorter school days (come back nursery with your 8am-6pm day!), the mental exhaustion your child will feel initially and the frankly physical drama of having to be somewhere exactly on time. Not to mention the time-bending process of simply putting on their shoes and coats in the morning!

For the next few weeks you will probably be buying school uniforms, working out the timetable and sourcing pencil cases and trainers with non-marking soles for the first time! It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about the new life you are all about to embark on. To help you, we’ve gathered tips from parents at Classlist schools to help you and your child start as they mean to go on.

Learn how to remember names

This is essential for the parents as well as children. When you’re learning lots of new names at once it can be really hard. Use the teacher trick of linking personalities or distinguishing features to names, for example Kind Kelly or Happy Henry. We’ve made it easier for the parents – you can simply scan the photos of their fellow parents on Classlist. You can also identify parents by searching for the child’s name – so you can organise playdates without the awkward ‘Whose parent are you?’ conversation first!

Practice social skills

Setting up playdates early on is a great way to establish friendships for life. You’ll probably want to invite the parents too in the early days, so that everyone feels comfortable. Those parents you bond with early on are likely to be the ones you stay in touch with long after school days are over. Help your little one practice social skills like sharing, offering help and trying not to interrupt.

Do a dummy-run

A week or two before term starts, practice getting up in time to put on the uniform, eat breakfast, brush teeth and make your way to school so you don’t miss the school bell. Familiarity will make it less daunting that first week and being late for school is a no-no! Teaching your child to lay out their uniform and pack their school bag the night before is a great life skill and helps reduce stress levels in the morning. Your child is likely to find this activity fun. Little do they know it is every day for the rest of their educational and working lives!

Basic self-care

Spend the summer making sure your child can fasten their laces (or at least their Velcro), do up buttons and zips, wash and sanitise their hands and pop their rubbish in the bin. They will feel independent and will grow in confidence the more you nudge them to take responsibility. 

Practice academic skills, but don’t stress about it

Developing hand strength and pencil skills will really help your child, but do it through play – tracing or colouring in are great activities. Chant the numbers and alphabet while you’re on long car journeys. Follow a recipe together so they start to remember instructions. It all counts!

Say goodbye well

This is more a skill for the parents than the children! A quick goodbye is much less painful than a long drawn-out departure. This year, with parents not being allowed in school due to COVID, children have learnt very quickly to say goodbye by force of situation. It hasn’t caused long-term problems. Remember, your experience of school is likely to be different to that of your child. Talking about school positively from the outset will set you all up for success.

Volunteer for PTA fundraising events

Before you start school, you may be oblivious to the volunteering opportunities that go alongside it. Being involved in the parent association even in a minor way will help you join the community. Nothing beats feeling part of something bigger than yourself. Volunteering at school opens social doors for you and your child. Children thrive when you are part of school. They love seeing you there, whether you’re going in regularly as a parent reader or you’re popping in to put up the decorations for the disco. You can get involved in the PTA fundraising using your Classlist account. PTAs use Classlist to tell you what’s going on and how to help.

Be a friend to make a friend

Connecting early with other parents will help you establish yourself as part of the community. You can make friends by checking out the other parents on Classlist, finding others like you or near you and sending them a message. Why not set up a summer picnic or meet-up with the other new parents? No child should start school feeling lost or lonely. It’s the reason Classlist was created!

End of the first day

Your child is likely to be shattered at the end of their first day. It’s unlikely they’ll go into detail about what happened during the day until they have processed it themselves. So be patient and give yourself a pat on the back for making it through!

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