“What to expect in the first fortnight of prep” is a guest post from Dr Rachell Kingsbury – Guidance Counsellor (Clin. Psych & Clin. Neuropsych MAPS) and mum of two boys.
The First Fortnight of Prep – A Guide
Congratulations to all the Parents that have just survived their first Prep week!
At my school, I’m preparing our Prep & Grade 1 emotional literacy curriculum for the year and we’re busy organising this year’s Friendship Groups and Prep Parent Information Night, which is happening next week. Overall, there will be lots of things that your own school will be doing to foster a successful school start for you Preppie, too, so if you’re feeling a bit lost, please don’t hesitate to chat to your Teacher or Principal. After all, school commencement can be as big of a transition for Parents as it is for Students.
Some Preppies won’t miss a beat and will fly into their new year without a tear, but for the vast majority, it is really normal to experience and elicit some degree of apprehension. To help with Parent expectations, below are some of the typical things we see across our Prep Community in the first fortnight.
The First Fortnight of Prep – Tips from an expert
Expect your child to be EMOTIONAL (excited, apprehensive, sad, fearful, worried, etc.,). School presents ENORMOUS change, and one that you simply cannot over prepare your child for. Talk about, welcome, and support all those little feelings as completely normal responses to a very big change. It would be an anomaly for most children to breeze through this transition. So also talk about how every other child in their class will probably be feeling just the same as your child feels.
Expect your child to be EXHAUSTED. There is mammoth learning outside of just the ABCs. Your child is learning to function in a much more complex social arrangement, learning a whole new Teacher and environment, learning to sit still and listen for extended time periods, learning to do what they’re told, learning advanced sharing and turn taking skills, learning advanced play skills, etc., etc., etc. All of this learning typically produces a tired brain and tired child. They will rapidly absorb this new routine in the coming weeks and the tiredness is likely to fade.
Expect your child to NOT EAT. This won’t last, but at the moment there is too much happening to want to eat. Schools are generally great in enforcing “sit down and eat” periods, because this phenomenon is school-wide.
Expect your child to be BEHAVIOURAL AT PICK UP. They have used up all of their emotional cup during the day, and they’re fully depleted by the time the see you. This is a very common occurrence with Parents frequently asking how their child can be an “angel” in the classroom, but difficult at home. Come to pick up prepared for a really big, undistracted hug and acknowledge how hard that distance has been and how well they did without your and how happy you are to be picking them up. This helps to reconnect their primary attachment and refills their emotional resilience until the next drop off.
Expect MORE TEARS in the next fortnight. Somewhere in the next fortnight, your child is going to realise that school isn’t just a fun, new thing – but a permanent, sometimes tricky thing that can be pretty stressful at times, and they’ll understandably maybe baulk at this. I always remember my nephew starting school and in the second week his entire class cried for the entire day!
Really normal for stress and anxiety in children to produce the same stress responses as it does in adults. This can include sleeplessness, disrupted routines, irritability, poor appetite, bed wetting or toilet issues (that’s why we pack spares in Preppies), hyperorality (chewing clothing, fingers, etc.), clinginess to mum and dad, etc. All very normal transition responses as children typically externalise their worries into behaviours. This is unlikely to persist, but if it does please don’t hesitate to chat to your Guidance Counsellor.
The first fortnight of prep – expect the unexpected
Mostly, I wanted to say – all of these responses are really NORMAL. So please, BREATHE: your Preppie is doing great and you’re doing great too, Parents! It is RARE for any of this to persist, but from a school-perspective, this is our common first fortnight of new Preppies and behind the scenes of most schools, we’re working hard to help this transition go as smoothly as possible also.
My main TIP (if it’s possible): is to arrive at pick up with an undistracted hug, lots of GOOD food, water, and go straight from school to an unstructured, outside play environment (i.e., park, playground) and let them UNWIND and have your full attention for 20-minutes (it doesn’t have to be a long play).
At school, we use a simple HALTS framework [Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Stressed] of assessment to understand emotional breaks in our younger Students. That little unstructured play with snacks targets these 5 areas, and will hopefully help circumvent behaviours associated with “lets go from 6 hours of change to the rush of dinner, bed, bath routine” etc.
This article featured in Issue 32 of our printed magazine, published February 2019.