updated 7 Jan 2011, 13:51
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Sat, Jan 01, 2011
The Star/ANN
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Making a head start in life

MY child is starting school for the first time on Monday! Will he be able to make friends easily? Will he be able to understand and follow what the teacher is saying? I hope he won’t get lost!

More often than not, parents find their child’s first day at kindergarten or school very distressing. And while children are excited about the new experience of school, they are equally anxious as they may not be sure of what to expect.

Parents naturally want children to get the best start in life. And this takes a lot of preparation.

Understanding that it’s not easy for a child to adapt to a new environment, Dr Goh Chee Leong, psychologist and Dean of Psychology at HELP University College shares some helpful tips.

1. Get your kids used to the idea of being away from home and you. Leave your child with a family member or friend, for about two to three hours a day, to warm them up to the idea of you coming and going.

Enrolling your child in play dates may also help them learn to deal with separation anxiety.

2. Eliminate surprises where possible for your child’s first day of school. Familiarising your child with what this big day is all about can calm his/her nerves when the day finally arrives. Parents can indulge in a “show and tell”, to take their kids through the experience step-by-step. For example, you can drive your kids to their new school and point out the school gate where daddy or mummy will drop them off, or describe the classroom, as well as the kind of activities that will take place.

3. Practise the first day of school, in advance. To make sure your child is ready for their first day of school, why not practise the day with them? Even if you know they can manage well, it won’t hurt to go through the paces to help them gain more confidence and independence.

For instance, the act of getting dressed in the school uniform can help your child recognise the routine as part of getting ready for school.

Role-playing can also be an effective way to practise with your child. At the same time, you can teach them basic skills such as how to ask the teacher permission to go to the toilet, or how to write their name.

4. Friends are important. Teach your kids the importance of having friends at school. If your child is shy, try taking the initiative to introduce them to the other kids, or set up an environment where they have an opportunity to mingle, such as small parties and play dates. Learning to make friends quickly at school can help make your child’s first day of school a lot less frightening.

5. Encourage children to get excited about school. Parents often overlook how their behaviour and attitudes can heavily influence their child; a stressed parent can easily result in an equally nervous child. So, set the right attitude and environment from the beginning by talking about how the first day of school is going to be an exciting and fun time, and help your child look forward to this important day in their life. Getting your child involved in the preparation process like choosing their new school bag or stationery is also a simple way of getting them more excited about starting school.

6. Finally, ensure your child is eating right and has sufficient sleep. Being in school or kindergarten, means your child has to stay alert for at least four to six hours a day. That’s why it’s important to maintain a fixed sleep schedule for your child, to make sure they are well rested for the next day at school. Similarly, parents have to ensure that their child is eating healthy, giving them all the essential nutrients they need to optimise their physical and mental development. Realising that a growing child has different nutritional needs for the varying growth stages of his or her life is also important.

What better way to start than to provide a good breakfast for your child every day. And while they are in school, parents can continue to provide children with the nutrients they need by giving them milk, one of the most complete of food sources. Based on the 2010 Malaysian Food Guide Pyramid, milk is recommended one to three times a day.

So parents, your child’s first day of school can certainly be managed with the right amount of preparation, nutrition and rest. This will ensure your child is both mentally and physically prepared to overcome any challenges they may face during this important chapter of their lives. Don’t forget, the easiest way to start is with a good breakfast, a glass of nutritious milk and a big smile!

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