20 January 2014

More than 300,000 Australian children will start primary school in 2014 and this year parents can help their kids make a successful start with the KidsMatter Starting School resources.

Children who make a positive start to school are more likely to feel excited and motivated to learn, have good relationships with others and develop a sense of belonging within the school community. Research suggests positive parenting practices are associated with adjustment to school and ongoing academic success1.

The KidsMatter Starting School resources, comprising a series of online videos, easy-to-read information sheets and children’s activity books that parents can use at home, will help children transition successfully from home or an early childhood setting to primary school.

The videos are hosted by broadcaster, writer and mum to eight-year-old Taj and seven-year-old Grace, Tracey Spicer. She says the resources help parents to prepare children for the best possible start to primary school.

“The KidsMatter Starting School resources help parents to support their children on the first day of school and beyond,” said Tracey. “Parents can watch the videos, read the information sheets and help their kids complete the children’s activity books.”

Beginning big school can be an exciting and anxious time for children but the good news is there’s lots that parents can do to help ensure a positive start.

“Parents can play a really important role in supporting their children as they make the transition to school,” said KidsMatter psychologist Marie Hirst.

“Helping children to feel good about themselves and the changes ahead supports them to start school feeling positive and confident. Continuing to support children socially and emotionally throughout the transition will equip them with skills to cope with the new environment.

“The KidsMatter Starting School resources provide lots of practical ideas and strategies for parents to do with their children before and after the first day of school.”

What can parents do to ensure a smooth start to school?

Here are KidsMatter psychologist Marie Hirst’s top tips:

  • Week before school starts: With the big day fast approaching, you might notice your emotions are running high. Rest assured lots of parents will feel the same way so take some time to think about what you might find helpful; for example, talking to another parent who has a child starting school. Be mindful that your child might pick up on how you are feeling which can influence their reaction to school, so be calm and confident about the changes ahead to help your child feel calm too.

  • Night before school starts: Be as organised as possible to help everyone feel relaxed. Pack your child’s school bag and lunchbox the night before and try to include foods you know they will enjoy and be able to unwrap. Share some special time together such as laying out your child’s uniform or school clothing and be sure to listen to any questions or worries they might have. Talk positively about what will happen at school and reassure your child that you will see them at the end of the day.

  • First day of school: Give yourself extra time to get ready so that you aren’t rushed. This will help you and your child to arrive at school feeling calm and ready for the day ahead. After the big day, try not to overwhelm your child with too many questions but take their lead if they want to talk.

  • First week of school: Your child is likely to feel tired as they settle into their new routine, so make sure they get plenty of rest. Try not to schedule big activities this week, although you might like to celebrate the milestone in special way; for example, with a special meal or a trip to the park.

  • First month of school (and beyond): Remember that starting school is a transition that continues well after the first day of school and is a change that affects the whole family. For some children there may be ups and downs for several months as they settle into the school environment. Be aware of any ongoing issues or changes in your child’s behaviour and talk to their teacher if you have any concerns.

To view the KidsMatter Starting School resources, go to www.kidsmatter.edu.au/startingschool

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For the editor

One in seven school-age children has a mental health problem and only one in four gets the help they need2. KidsMatter is a mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention initiative for primary schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services that is proven to make a positive difference to the lives of Australian children3. KidsMatter has been developed in collaboration with beyondblue, the Australian Psychological Society, the Principals Australia Institute, Early Childhood Australia and, with funding from, the Australian Government Department of Health and beyondblue.


1.Gregory, A., & Rimm-Kaufman, S. (2008). Positive mother-child interactions in kindergarten: Predictors of school success in high school. School Psychology Review, 37(4), 499-515.

Morrison, E.F., Rim-Kaufman, S., & Pianta, R.C. (2003). A longitudinal study of mother-child interactions at school entry and social and academic outcomes in middle school. Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 185-200.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2008). Mothers’ and fathers’ support for child autonomy and early school achievement. Developmental Psychology, 44(4), 895-907.

 2. Côté, S.M., Boivin, M., Liu, X., Nagin, D.S., Zoccolillo, M., Tremblay, R.E. (2009). Depression and anxiety symptoms: Onset, developmental course and risk factors during early childhood. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50(10),1201-1208.

 3. Slee, P.T., Lawson, M.J., Russell, A., Askell-Williams, H., Dix, K.L., Owens, L., Skrzypiec, G., & Spears, B. (2009). KidsMatter Primary Evaluation Final Report. Centre for Analysis of Educational Futures, Flinders University of South Australia.