This article is aimed particularly at parents of young children from the international community who are either living in Singapore or moving too Singapore in the near future. We hope of course that it maybe it maybe of use to other parents as well.
The first days at Kindergarten can, for some parents and children, be a very stressful event. Based on our experiences at Rain Trees Kindergarten there are however a number of things that can be done to try and make those first days as easy as possible. We have compiled a list of do’s and don’ts that we hope are helpful.
Talk about school positively to your toddler. Emphasise the fun they will have, the interesting things they will do and the new friends they will make. Show your child photos of the school and the teacher and of course take them on a visit to the school.
This list from About.com is worth looking at for ideas on suitable books.
You may want to join a Parent and Toddler group as a starting point. This will allow you to observe how your child copes in a group setting and will give you both confidence for starting at Preschool.
Make sure your kindergarten has arranged an orientation session for both you and your child.
Let the first days be guided by your child. Remember that you know your child best. If your child is confident and independent then starting school maybe straightforward and they may start without even a backward glance. For other children you should be prepared to start slowly and perhaps only leave them a school for a hour a day and start with 2-3 days a week. At Preschool or Kindergarten you have the luxury of taking things slowly – primary schools have different expectations as the children are older.
Leave your mobile number with the teacher and ask them to get in touch via SMS / call to let you know what is happening. Don’t be upset if your child needs too home early.
Sometimes toddlers, despite everyone’s best efforts, are not ready and it is best to delay entry for a couple of months. Good kindergartens acknowledge this and will allow for a deferred entry without parents incurring financial loss. Remember it is your choice when your toddler starts – there is no right or wrong age to start.
If your toddler has a comfort object then bring it along to school.
Make sure you say goodbye and let them know that you will be coming back. Sneaking away doesn’t work and will be counterproductive.
Maintain good communications with the school and the classroom teacher. They will help provide advice and give options to help your toddler settle in. A good parent-teacher partnership is one of the most important success factors in helping your child to settle.
If you are a new arrival to Singapore your child has already had a huge deal of change to cope with, for young children it is really important to make sure that your child has settled into Singapore life and that your home life has gone back into it’s natural rhythm of routine ( bedtimes,dinnertimes playing etc) before you embark on settling your child into a new school. Of course some parents will not be able to do this – but bear in mind the additional time that is likely to be required
Try and meet other parents and have playdates with children from the same class to help your child form some friendship groups outside of school hours.
Try different approaches and be prepared to try other things and be guided by the teacher. Sometimes is does work if you step back from the process.
Don’t use school as a punishment or talk negatively about school.
The chances are your toddler will pick up on their parents’ anxiety. Parental anxiety is very normal especially if it is your first child and you have spent the last 2-3 years looking after them on a full-time basis. It will take you time to build trust with your child’s class teacher.
Whatever your approach, I wish you good luck in your first days and weeks as your toddler settles into their new preschool. And if it takes a bit longer than you hoped for remember that each child is different but they do all settle in the end. A good parent teacher partnership is one of the most important success factors.
About Katie Terry
Katie Terry has over 15 years’ experience of teaching in the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore. She has taught at kindergarten and primary level including children with special needs.
Katie was an international child herself and spent most of her childhood in Hong Kong. Katie is a Director of Rain Trees Kindergarten in Singapore – for more information and her contact details please visit www.raintreeskindergarten.com.
By Katie Terry, Rain Trees Kindergarten