How does Asya’s work with parents to make the transition to “big” school a successful one?
We listen and respond. We share and we guide. When it comes to parents’ questions about school preparation and readiness our lovely teachers consider no question too small (or too silly for that matter!) In order for the children at Asya’s Nursery to be the best that they can be, we believe in providing them a community where they can belong and a place where they will always be welcome. This wouldn’t be possible without our strong partnership with parents as well as being available for questions and feedback at all times. Our teachers are available at handover times and private appointments can be made in person or via email. As head of school, I am of course also available to parents by phone, email or to just drop in. But typically, the parents prefer to regularly discuss their child with the class teachers to hear about successes and challenges as they arise so that they can be followed up at home.
How can I help my child at home in the lead up to starting school?
The most important thing that a parent can do is be prepared for the range of emotions that their child may feel upon this transition. Parents need to acknowledge these feelings as real and valid, and help their child learn to navigate tricky emotions in a positive way. And what do I mean by that? Well, your child is going to be leaving a place of comfort, security, predictability and friendship. At nursery they are confident valued contributors who are recognized as friends, playmates and community participants. They may find that on one hand going to big school is really exciting, especially when they will join older siblings. But they may also feel sadness or anger at leaving people and places behind. Don’t brush this aside, help your child understand and navigate this grief. Remember how you felt when you first left your home country…
Please do not think that I mean your child will be emotionally scarred by this process! Part of growing up is learning to recognize and manage feelings in a healthy way. Your child may still want to have play dates with old friends or Skype (depending on the distance). Try to connect with families from the new school so that your child can have play dates with their new school friends. Resist the temptation to say things like “It’ll be the most fun you’ve ever had,” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of”. NEVER belittle your child’s fears or concerns. Instead, help calm their fears with information. Before school begins, visit the classroom together at least once if you can, preferably when other children and future teacher(s) are there.
Are there any skills that my child should master before they start school?
In Dubai there are schools that will not accept children who are not potty trained, so this may be a must. Your schools of choice will inform you. All children will develop at their own pace. I personally avoid words like “should” when it comes to a child’s development. What I will sayhowever, is that it is very helpful if parents can provide regular opportunities to practice emotional, physical, and academic situations that will arise at big school.
- Practice being with new people for a couple of hours; an afternoon at a friend’s house with new faces, or a drop off at fun zone at the mall
- Support your child to express emotions, needs and requests. Help them say it or show it, rather than reading their mind or body language (new people won’t have your “physic–mama–skills” when it comes to your own child).
- Recognise and take care of their own things (vs throwing it on the ground for someone else to pick up!)
- Being able to find and put on own shoes as well as get dressed after toileting or swimming
- Independent toileting and hand-washing
- Independent eating and drinking (from cup)
Gross Motor skills
- Let the children play! Large motor movements stimulate the development of neural pathways in the brain, which are essential. The more neural pathways a brain has the more wrinkled and bumpy it gets. Knowledge get stored in those wrinkles, we want brain wrinkles! (ed. Note – we are all for wrinkles!)
- Strength and balance (jumping in place, standing on one foot, running and kicking and navigating around obstacles)
- Holds a book properly and turns pages
- Understands that words convey the message in a story
- Holds a writing tool with a fist or finger grasp
- Draws with a variety of tools (crayons, pens, pencils)
- Scribble-writes in a linear fashion
- Makes marks and refers to them
What’s the best way for parents to stay involved in their child’s school life?
Attend the orientation events! Get to know the teachers and other school staff and read the information the school sends home throughout the year. Talk to other parents to find out what programs the school offers. Maybe there’s an after-school activity your child would enjoy. Remember to keep track of (and attend!) school events such as concerts, student exhibitions, parent-teacher meetings and sports days. If the school has a Parent Teacher Organization, consider joining. The meetings provide a good chance to talk with other parents, to voice your hopes and concerns, and to work together to improve the school.
Are there any challenges specific to expat families/children living away from their native countries that you think are important for parents to know about?
This is a really interesting question. I grew up as the child of immigrants, and I see huge parallels to the expatriate community. Not surprising since they are also adults out of their homeland raising a family. In considering a move abroad people most often focus on the economic or career benefits, and underestimate, fail to consider, or even ignore the possible emotional that can arise for family members.
A resource that I have recently found is Keep Your Life, Family and Career Intact While Living Abroad by Cathy Tsang-Feign. Here’s a quote from the author herself:
“Over the years, I realized that issues faced by expatriates are common to all expats regardless of nationality. A few such issues are culture shock, identity inflation, transient family syndrome, reverse culture shock, etc. There were very few resources that touched upon these areas from a psychological point of view.”
And here are a few interesting key takeaways:
- Just because someone travels extensively doesn’t mean that they are immune from culture shock, let alone that they are prepared for it. There are four stages of culture shock that are dealt with in this book that are very interesting for expat parents and families alike to learn more about.
- Third Culture Kids face challenges and benefits that people from outside this population have no clue about. TCKs are the silent majority who do not get a choice to relocate to foreign lands when their parents decide to move abroad. In addition, when a family moves abroad most of the attention is on logistics or how to get the adults to settle in and that children are resilient and they will simply adapt.
- Many parents don’t seem to realize what their kids go through, and the impact on them of moving, especially serial relocations. There is a chapter in the book devoted to Third Culture Kids that is a great read for any parent considering a move.
Asya’s Nursery, Shoreline Bldg 10, Al Das, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, (+971)(0)44 356 627, www.asyasnursery.com
Brought to you in partnership with Asya’s Nursery