WhichSchoolAdvisor.com guides you through how to support your child as they start or return to school, including some top tips from education experts at Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS), the EtonHouse International Education group, Tanglin Trust School, White Lodge Pre-school, and One World International School.
In these unprecedented times, schools are using virtual tours to offer families the next best thing to a physical tour. There are 360-degree tours where you can ‘tour’ facilities such as the sports hall, library, playing fields, science lab and theatre. Many schools have these on their website already, and they can offer an immersive experience of a campus, which is something new starters can take advantage of.
Jayne Nadarajoo, the founding director of White Lodge Pre-school, encourages parents to share as much information as possible about their child’s new school
“Parents should talk about the new school, look at photos of where they will be going, school premises like classrooms, canteen, playing fields etc to get them excited. Connect with new families starting at the same school or class and help your child find a new friend to help with the transition. This will help cut down on anxiety and empower with information on what to expect, who to meet etc.”
And Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS) principal Elaine Robinson says that communication is key. “Allow the children to share their feelings and thoughts about the transitions, communicate as much as possible through conversations, art, drama or any medium that your child enjoys. Also, enjoy exercising together, eating family meals together, write a diary together.”
Books can be a great way to prepare your child for starting school or moving to a new school. Reading can be a positive way to introduce pre-school to your young child or address the fears of a child moving up to junior school – all while bonding over a good story.
Lynn Chua, deputy director (Content & Services), National Library Board, says:
“Introducing picture books to children about starting school can help them reduce their uncertainties and fears about school. Reading stories that touch on expected behaviours at school, school routine and interaction with teachers and friends creates opportunities for children to explore all the emotions and scenarios of the ‘first day’.”
The NLB recommends the following books:
Chicken in School by Adam Lehrhaupt
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex
Little Owl’s First Day by Debi Gliori
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
As well as packing pencil cases and PE kits, your child will need their own health and safety pack including face masks and hand sanitizer. You will also need to complete a Travel and Health Declaration Form before your child can return to campus; this should be sent to you by your school.
Starting primary school, moving to secondary school, or changing schools can feel daunting to any child. So, talk to your child about they have dealt with significant changes in their life before. For example, 'Do you remember how scared you were when it was time to start primary school?'
Claire Holmes, head of school counselling at Tanglin Trust School, says:
"Our kids are not programmed to be calmer than we are. They take their lead from how we deal with situations. So being calm yourself and talking positively about the change of class (and possibly school) is important, even if you are not sure how it’s going to turn out.
"Let them know that it is okay to be worried and that they can chat to you about their concerns anytime. Keep the door open for those conversations. Making yourself available to chat when they need will help to reduce their anxiety. Avoid the temptation to tell them not to worry. This minimises their experience and may deter them from sharing with you and increase their anxiety."
Make sure your child is mentally prepared for the new measures that will be in place at school when they return, from wearing masks to social distancing.
EtonHouse encourages parents to, “Communicate positively with your child to prepare them mentally and educate them on safety measures and emphasis on good hygiene.” The school group also suggests “reading books that explain the virus situation”; the group has launched a series of three books explaining the Covid-19 pandemic to children, which can be downloaded for free on its website.
One World International School (OWIS) head of school Michelle Dickinson has the following advice: “Do remind your children that they must wear a face mask or face shield at all times while in school or on campus. Children will also see that their peers and other community members will be doing the same, so they are not alone in doing this. Preventing the spread of the virus is a community effort and children too have to play their role in supporting this effort.
“While they can now talk to their peers and teachers face-to-face, do caution children to always maintain a safe physical distance from each other at all times. This may be hard for children to follow at first, however, if children understand that this measure is necessary for schools to continue to function, they may find it a more acceptable practice.”
Use the days before your child returns to school to explain why they will have staggered arrival and break timings, be seated in fixed exam-style seating in classrooms and need to wash their hands frequently.
Help to create a positive mindset for their first day by reminding your child of the different activities they did at school or nursery before the summer break, their friends, the memories they shared, events held at school etc. so that they will look forward to repeating this experience!
Claire Holmes, head of school counselling at Tanglin Trust School says:
"Plant some ‘you can deal with this’ seeds It’s okay not to have all the answers to every question or to know how every detail will play out. Be honest saying “I’m not sure how it’s going to go either, but I’m sure you’ll cope.” It’s very important to tell your child that they can cope with this move. This helps them to believe in themselves and feel capable.
"Ask them about their Character Strengths and which ones are going to help them most. Resist the urge to ‘fix’ the problem for your child by ‘rescuing’ them or advice-giving. This is a teachable moment for your child. Times of challenge and change build resilience, wisdom and strength. Trust in your child’s ability to get through this."
Buy a new wall calendar and different coloured pens, and have fun planning the new school year! Add in all the dates featured so far on your school's academic calendar, as well as Singapore's public holidays.
Also, buy the school uniforms well in advance. And, the week before school starts, work on bedtime and wake-up routines, shop for school supplies and complete any school paperwork.
Always take your child’s temperature before school; if your child is feeling unwell, visit a doctor and stay home. If there are adult household members on home quarantine/Stay Home Notice or have flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever and cough), inform the school and keep your child at home.
Read more: Covid-19: Getting Ready To Start Big School