Schooling facilitates your child’s learning. The school is an avenue where your child can actively discover new concepts and gain insights that will eventually help him understand his world and the outside world better. Aside from learning though, schooling is an important part of your child’s life primarily because it fosters lifelong positive outcomes. Research suggests that children who start education early in their lives have better chances of performing well in school, attending tertiary education, being employed in the future and having better financial outcomes.
Coming from the said premise, you might be asking two major questions. First, you might ask when should I send my child to school, and second, how do I help him adjust to his first school experience?
When is the best time to introduce your child to formal education?
There is really no hard and fast rule in terms of the best age to introduce children to schooling. Many parents may want to delay sending their children to school until the children are more able to focus and actively engage in formal and structured learning environments. After all, children may be able to appreciate school more when they have better capacity to understand its purpose. The Australian government requires children to be enrolled in school by the time they hit their 6th birthday. With cut-off dates for enrollment different in various states though, many children start primary school when they are four years old. However, our experience is that when families report they had some degree of uncertainty on when to start their child at prep, and they had the option to wait a year, that starting them the following year can reduce the risk of challenges arising at prep that relate to social, emotional and attention/cognitive challenges.
When your child starts schooling, you might discover that he may need help adjusting to the demands of his new environment. Surveys have long established that is it not uncommon for children to find it challenging to adjust to the school system and to the dynamics that occur within it. Still, there are a number of things that you could do to help him adapt to his new environment, some of which you might already be experimenting with
- Increase your child’s school readiness by helping him find joy in reading before he starts going to school. Reading can help your child increase his language and vocabulary skills and the best way to help him achieve these is to share with him a love for books and reading. Better language skills may enable him to socialize with his peers well.
- If your child is too young to start reading, engage in story-telling with him. Children absorb information from stories and, through stories, increase their imagination. An increase in their imagination sows seeds of cognitive development among children. Children who are more cognitively developed may display better school readiness.
- Try to get to know your child’s teacher. Your relationship with your child’s teacher may have an impact on your child’s adjustment. If your child observes that you trust his teacher and that you have a good relationship with the latter, your child may also model the same positive relationship.
- Expose your child to other children and adults early. You can do this by bringing him to the park or to any place where families may gather to have picnics or to do activities together. If he is surrounded by other people early in his life, there is a bigger possibility for him to become accustomed to being with other individuals. Since schools mimic an environment that is composed of children and adults, having previous experience of being with others may help your child feel less anxious when you leave him in school for the first time.*
- Talk to your child if you feel that he has difficulty adjusting. Even young children have their own ways of communicating that something might be wrong. For instance, he may mention that he does not want to go to school or he may go into a tantrum on certain days. If your child says anything or behaves in a way that could indicate some difficulty in adjusting to school, encourage your child to share with you how he really feels and find the reason that lies behind it. Aside from getting your child’s perspective, asking his teacher might shed more light into possible concerns.**
- Show interest in your child’s school events and attend them. Research has shown that parents who are involved in their children’s activities are able to help decrease their children’s behavioral problems in school and improve their social skills. Children whose parents are involved also cooperate better with their classmates and their teachers. Furthermore, they initiate specific actions such as helping their classmates finish their tasks and engaging in friendly conversations with them.
- Be present in your child’s life. Continue making him feel loved and cared for and show him that you are there to catch him when he starts falling down. Your child would need you as he navigates his way through school. Children who feel that their parents are there for them unconditionally may adjust better in school.
Again, school is important. However no amount of schooling would ever replace your role in your child’s life as a student. So, if you have already started taking an active role in your child’s schooling, continue this good work! If you have not yet started, now might be the time to do so. In the end, the investment that you put into your child will be all worth it once you see him growing into a well-adjusted, independent and happy individual.
Need Help? You can visit Child Psychology Brisbane for details.
 Lazaro, K. (2015). Education experts call for uniform school starting age as parents delay sending children to primary school. The World Today Retrieved October 20, 2016 from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-03/calls-for-uniform-school-starting-age/6908846
 Going to a Public School. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/gotoschool/primary/startingschool.php
 Viader, D (1998). Many children struggling to adjust to kindergarten. Education Week. Retrieved October 20, 2016 from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1998/04/22/32aera3.h17.html
 Wynn, L. (). School Readiness: Starting your child off right. Child Care Smart Start. Retrieved October 20, 2016 from http://center.serve.org/tt/StartingYourChild.pdf
 Myers, R. (2016). 5 Reasons you should read to your child every night. Retrieved October 20, 2016 from https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-activities/5-reasons-you-should-read-to-your-child-every-night/
 Setting In. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/going-to-school/starting-school/settling-in/
*Same references as the 6th footnote
** Same reference as the 8th footnote
 El Nokali, N., Bachman, H. & Votruba-Drzal, E. (2011). Parent involvement and children’s academic and social development in elementary school. Child Development, 81(3), 988-1005. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01447.x