Whether your child is going into Reception, starting at a new school, or moving up to secondary school, starting school can be a worrying time for children and their parents and carers. Many parents are worried about bullying but there are practical steps you can take to prepare your child.
Starting school in the early years
This is a brilliant adventure that you are starting together and if it gets difficult at any point along the way, Kidscape is here to help.
Here are some ways you can help prepare little ones for their school journey:
- Let them know that most children have a brilliant time at school, but if they are worried about anything you are always here to listen.
- Role play saying (or communicating) ‘No, stop that’, or ‘No, I don’t like that’ in a clear voice. This will come in handy if any other child oversteps the mark which is bound to happen in the early days, weeks and months.
- Help them understand about physical boundaries and that it is okay not to want someone else to touch you. Also teach them to respect the physical boundaries of others (e.g. to always ask if someone wants a hug and to be gentle in their play). Encourage them to always let you know if something or someone has upset them, or if they are in school, to find a quiet moment to talk to the teacher. If they don’t get the help they need from the first teacher, encourage them to find another adult in the school they trust.
- Let them know that children might say things that upset them or make them sad, but the best way to respond is to shrug it off and say something like ‘Okay, if that’s what you think.’ Children are looking for a reaction so the less you can give them one the more likely they are to stop. They can always talk the situation through with an adult later if it has upset them or made them scared.
- Talk through what makes a good friend, and what to look for in a friend. Remind them that real friends won’t make you sad or force you to do something you don’t want to do. Suggest they have lots of friends rather than one best friend. This will help protect them from any friendship fall outs.
- Encourage them to be kind to other children, looking out for others who may be feeling left out and never joining in if other children are being unkind.
- If your child is worried they stand out for being different in some way, remind them that we are all unique and that their difference is a strength. Let them know that no one has the right to put them down for who they are and that they do not need to change.
- Teach your child the importance of saying sorry. We all say or do things that upset other people but the younger we can learn to say sorry if we hurt someone, the better. It’s also important to help your child learn to forgive others who have hurt them (children are usually much quicker to forgive and forget than adults).
Moving to a new school
There are many reasons why your child might be starting a new school. If it is because of bullying they may be feeling particularly worried or anxious.
Here are some steps you can take to make the move easier:
- Take your child to visit the new school. Ask if they can put a plan in place to help with a smooth transition and whether your child can be introduced to a child or children who will help to settle them in.
- Let the school staff know if your child has any worries or anxieties and agree how you will work together to help relieve their concerns. Ask for a nominated staff member who will be available to listen if your child needs help.
- If your child is 9-16 years old and has previously experienced bullying, consider attending one of our Kidscape ZAP workshops to help build their confidence. They may also benefit from counselling to deal with any underlying anxiety or trauma.
- Reassure them that not all children or people are the same, and that this is a fresh start.
Starting secondary school
We know that this is a challenging time for all children.
Here are steps you can take to help your child prepare for secondary school:
- Help them accept that friendships will change. It may be that their primary school friends are going to different schools, but even if they do know other children, this is a time that new friendships will be formed. Encourage them to say hello to other children, to ask them questions about themselves, and to be open to lots of new friendships. Read our guide to making new friends together.
- Remind them that true friends make you feel good about yourself and will never force you to do something you don’t want to do. This is very important at secondary school age as peer pressure will start to grow. Encourage them to be kind to others and to respect people who are comfortable with themselves, without feeling the need to put others down. Explore our guide to what makes a good friend.
- Encourage them to take part in activities and groups outside of school so that they have a broader circle of friends they can turn to for help and support. This could be sports or arts clubs, Scouts or Guides, or they could look to volunteer for local causes.
- Help them to celebrate difference and what makes them and others unique. Remind them that no-one has the right to make them feel bad about themselves or put them down for who they are. If they are particularly struggling help them find like-minded people in your area or online who can give them support.
- Show them that you respect and are kind to others. Your children are always watching you so be mindful about what you say about other people, and how you behave online. They will be spending more and more time on social media as time goes on so make sure they know how to stay safe online. Look at the privacy settings together, encourage them to be careful about what they share and who they trust, saving their most private thoughts and feelings for close friends and family. Remind them that it’s more important to have a few close friends than lots of friends and followers. Follow our guide to exploring online safety together as a family.
- Encourage them to tell you if they are worried about anything or have any questions, but accept that as they grow older they are more likely to turn to their friends. This is perfectly natural but make sure you have enough relaxed time together (e.g. going for a drive, going out for the day) that they feel they can talk to you if they need to.
- If they are going through a bullying situation stay calm, and let them know that together you will sort it out. Read the advice on our website and contact the Kidscape Parent Advice Line if you need more help.
Kidscape log and school contact record
A simple way to promote open communication with the school and ensure that each bullying incident is recorded.