Starting school involves a big change for both children and families. It can be a time of great excitement, but also a challenging and stressful time.

Families play an important role in supporting children to manage the transition to primary school.

In the lead up to children starting school, there are many practical ways that parents and carers can plan and prepare for the changes ahead.

Starting school is a change for the whole family  

Starting school is not only a change for your child, but also you and your whole family!

Every family will have different experiences, ideas and strategies so it’s best to make a plan that suits your individual family.

For example, children with older siblings who have already started school are often used to school routines and will have a very different experience to those who are the first child in their family to start school.

Thinking a little about how things are going to change for everyone can help you to make sure the whole family is ready for starting school.

As you help your child to prepare for the changes ahead, it is important to monitor your own feelings.

Having your child start school may lead to a new routine for you and your family.

There may also be a period of adjustment as you begin to connect with the new school community and feel the loss of strong relationships formed at your child’s early childhood service.

Here are some practical tips and strategies that can help you:

1. Prepare for the new school day routine

Practising changes to your daily routine will help build children’s sense of security and reduce the stress of getting to school.

Some activities you can do include:

  • traveling to and from school several times as a practice run
  • practising the morning routine of getting up early, putting on uniforms and packing school bags
  • practising lunch time routines including helping your child to get their lunchbox out of their school bag and guiding them to open it by themselves
  • creating a visual checklist with your child, this can include things that need to be done in the evening and morning before they leave for school
  • arranging opportunities for your child to play with other children who will be starting at the same school, as seeing familiar faces will help your child feel confident and more relaxed on their first day and during the first months of school.

2. Develop a positive goodbye routine together

Develop a positive goodbye routine like sharing a ‘high five’, special goodbye hug or a funny or loving gesture like a bear hug.

Always say goodbye and reassure children of when you will collect them, that you will be back at home-time to pick them up, or what the arrangements are for after school care. This helps build their trust and sense of security. Avoid lengthy goodbyes as this may increase separation distress.

If you are concerned about this issue, it is best to talk to school staff as early as possible.

3.  Celebrate the first day!

The first day of school is a memorable milestone for children and you may like to organise a special activity or dinner together as a family on the weekend to celebrate.

Remember that your child might be exhausted when they get home in the first few weeks. Give them some down time and try not to overwhelm them with too many questions about the day. 

For more information

Watch our video 'Getting ready for school':