published Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Child Sense: Starting school

By Priscilla J. Dunstan

McClatchy-Tribune

Starting school brings changes to a child’s life and both children and parents can expect to feel a complicated bundle of emotions, as the day gets close. Parents and child alike will approach the first day with a hearty mixture of fear, anxiety, curiosity and excitement. Using your child’s dominant sense to help them be prepared, can go a long way to making their first day more exciting than scary.

A tactile child, with their hands-on practical nature, will be anxious to know what they’ll actually DO when they’re at school. Making a list of activities they’re likely to participate in, and then giving them a chance to practice some of these activities at home, will boost their confidence about their new experience. Set aside some time everyday to “play school” and go through the motions of arriving, lining up and sitting at a desk drawing, If possible, take them to the schools playground and let them play on all the exciting equipment, they will be thrilled that their school has such exciting things to do.

An auditory child will benefit greatly from talking through the school day before it happens. They will be full of questions,” Where is my school?” “How do we get there?” “What will I eat?” “Can I bring my teddy?” “Who will help me with my shoe laces?” “How do I get home?”

Taking the time to talk through the details will help with their anxieties. Having them also talk to other kids and relatives about the positive things about school will help. Auditory children like schedules, so practice the schedule you will be doing when they go to school, this will allow you to explain things as you go, without being rushed.

Offering your visual child images of children enjoying school, either through picture books or family photos, will give them a picture in their own mind of the new world they’re about to experience. Another good way to get a visual child excited about this new experience is to take them shopping for their school clothes, bag, pencils, etc. While looking at all the new things, discuss where and how they will be used:

“You will need coloring pencils for when you have to color your work sheets at school.”

“These shoes will be good so you don’t have to worry about having messy untied laces.”

Although all children benefit from visiting school ahead of the first day, this is particularly true for taste/smell children. These children will especially benefit from having met their teacher ahead of time; and if not possible, if they can at least look at a photo and hear a description of the teacher.

This child seeks comfort and security in personal bonds and having a head start on their relationship with their new teacher can make a big difference. It is also a good idea to have introduced them to at least one child who will be in their class, so that they have one child to connect with and look forward to seeing.

If your child does become anxious about their first day of school, the best thing you can do for yourself and child, is take a breath, stay positive and try to use what you know about their dominant sense to encourage and alleviate their fears.

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