MORE than 50,000 Irish children are about to say one of their first major goodbyes, as they leave the safe world of primary school. And with post-primary on the horizon, summer holidays may not be as carefree as usual. It’s a coming of age with its own set of hurdles to be navigated.
It’s a hugely challenging time, says Deirdre Sullivan, training and development officer with the National Parents Council Primary. “Children go from being top of the pile to being bottom, to being the junior infants of post-primary. They stand out a mile because they look smaller and they’re in brand-new uniforms.
“They’re in a bigger school, where the layout’s unfamiliar. In primary, they might have had one teacher — now they could have 13 and it’s the children’s responsibility to move themselves from one classroom to another, to gather their books and belongings and charge to the next class, which could be on the other side of the building.”
According to an ESRI study, most children feel they’ve settled by the end of week one. But, for a quarter of students, it takes about a month and for one in six, longer than that.
How quickly children settle depends on the child and on their previous experience of adapting to change, says Kerri Fitzgerald, training and development officer at the Social and Health Education Project (SHEP). “Children who’ve begun to take more responsibility for themselves, who’ve had situations where they’ve been adaptable, may find it easier.”
Parents worry their child won’t have the self-organising skills to grapple with complicated timetables and navigate to new classrooms every 40 minutes. Deirdre Sullivan advises making several photocopies of your child’!s timetable, one of which you’ll stick up in your kitchen. She suggests creating a blank timetable and getting your child to fill it with you. “Once you know their timetable, you can start conversations: ‘You’ve got sports tomorrow – do you have your sports bag?’ So you’re not having rows with your child because they forgot or getting phone calls, saying, ‘Quick Mam, bring over my cooking ingredients’. Your aim is to destress as much as possible.”
* For information on transition programmes, phone SHEP, 021-466 6180 or visit www.npc.ie.
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