Starting school in Singapore: How to help your child settle into school life

With a new school year rolling round, you may have little ones who are feeling a bit overwhelmed with starting school. Here are our tips on how to make it a smooth ride for all...

So, you’ve found the perfect school in Singapore for your little one and are excited about the new term and what lies ahead. But starting school for the first time – and even launching into a new year or class – can be daunting. For the kids as well! In amongst shopping for school supplies, planning healthy lunches and buying out Smiggle, take time to check in with your child to see if they need a bit of extra support around this time. Even if your child is bold as brass, reading and talking about what to expect will help if the have any doubts about making new friends and finding their place in a new setting (or, if they’re very little, being separated from mum and dad!). Here are some useful books and survival tips on helping your child adjust to this big change…

Read stories to your child about starting school and dealing with challenges

These great books deal with themes that will help your child feel confident about a new life at school

Books to help your child feel confident about school life

1. Charlie and Lola: I Am Too Absolutely Small for School, by Lauren Child (Orchard Books)
Rely on everyone’s fave brother and sister team Charlie and Lola to entice your tiny one to stride through the front school gates. Protective Charlie convinces uncertain Lola that school is fun and even Lola’s imaginary friend Soren is busting to join the crew by the end of this tale.

2. Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di: Sebbie’s First Day of School, by David Seow (Epigram Books)
Authored by respected Singaporean author David Seow, Sebbie’s First Day of School provides a local take on a well-trodden theme. Your younger reader will banish fears once they realise all the cool stuff happens at school like painting, singing, playing and snacking!

3. A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade, by James Preller (Square Fish)
Written in fun pirate lingo (kids will love reading this one aloud), your little swashbuckler will be ready for adventure on the high seas of school after reading this great book. Don’t forget to read this on September 19, International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

4. The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn (Tanglewood Press)
Chester Racoon is NOT starting school, so Mrs Racoon introduces him to the family secret – the ‘Kissing Hand’ – to reassure him his mummy’s love is with him whenever he feels a little frightened.

5. Back to School, Mallory, by Laurie Friedman (Carolrhoda Books)
This is a great read for older children (seven to 10 years) dealing with moving to a new school. It will strike a chord with expat children dealing with big changes in their lives, let alone a different school.

Tips for helping kids to settle in to their new setting and routine

1. Forsake the late bedtimes of holidays and get back into a routine a day or two before school starts.

2. Get up a little earlier than usual. Leave the television off so there aren’t any distractions. Take time to eat a good breakfast, pack the school bag, and put on the uniform. Calmness is key.

3. If you are lucky enough to have help at home, try to leave younger siblings at home when you do drop-off initially. You can focus attention on your little man or little lady and make them feel special and safe as they embark on something new.

4. Hand over your little one to teacher as swiftly as possible. Don’t linger. If you have to peel a shrieking child from your arms, you are not alone. Take solace in the fact that teachers say most kids stop crying a minute after you leave. If not, they WILL call you.

5. Get to know the other parents and invite them and their offspring over for a play date.  Working mum? No problem, join the parents association and form a connection with the school.

6. If you are a school bus family, the greatest risks arise when getting on and off and 10 feet surrounding the bus in all directions. Sit down with your child to discuss the safety rules.

  • always stand a good distance from the bus on the curb (at least 10 big steps).
  • don’t play with toys (especially balls) when waiting for the bus. Chasing a run away ball will only lead to disaster.
  • don’t start moving towards the bus until it has completely stopped. And don’t stand up to hop off until it is still.
  • never stand near the wheels of the bus, the driver can’t see you.
  • make eye contact with the bus driver and look for their go ahead that it is safe to board the bus.

7. Stick a cute note in your little one’s lunchbox or hide a favourite toy in their school bag as a little midday comforting surprise.

8. Friendship is important and can mean the difference between a reluctant school goer, and one who leaps into the classroom. It’s also worth asking your school if they have a big sister/big brother buddy system for a little extra guidance in the big scary playground.

9. Focus on the positives when talking about school with your tot. When you pick them up praise their school work and comment on how happily they were playing when you arrived.

10. Talk to your child about their worries; it may be as simple as not being able to open their lunch box, or being afraid to ask to go to the toilet. A problem shared is a problem halved. Solving small problems stops them developing into real fears.

11. Work with the teacher – they are professionally trained to deal with all aspects of your child’s school life. They also spend a lot of time with your child and will be uniquely placed to spot any issues.

12. Don’t expect miracles. It may take a little while for your child to find their feet. So just be there to support them as they go through the change until school becomes a part of everyday life.

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