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Starting school - preventing & fixing problems

All Change

Going to school for the first time is daunting. Every adult you meet for about a year beforehand asks you if you are excited, but you don't really know what to expect. Even if you have bigger brothers or sisters, they don't exactly explain what school is like.

'It's a big building with lots of people in it and you stay there for hours!'

Handling Change

There are such a lot of expectations when you start school. Even with the best planning in the world, there are so many new things to get right: from where you put your coat, making friends, joining in, even opening your own yoghurt etc. It may be an entirely new concept to have to sit still in a group and listen to the teacher. Some kids just don't understand what the expectations are and need to learn the skills quickly. That's when they need more help to develop their skills and to make sure they don't fail before they've even got going.

How to start school

Because there is nothing more upsetting than a shaky start at school, we have written a book to address the social and emotional skills needed to handle starting school and all the challenges it brings. The structure of the book is fun, full of magic and sparkle and playfulness. But embedded in it are serious strategies. The reader will travel alongside Sam, learning how to use recognized relaxation strategies to cope with nerves, how to speak to a teacher and make friends. These are the essential skills to make the first year of school successful and also skills that will take them through their school years. Getting these wrong can soon become a huge hurdle to overcome if it isn't remedied early.

Fearless Fairy and Daring Dragon say:

'Let's go to school'

Our glossy picture book includes a story for children, advice for parents and lots of exercises to practise.

£9.00 including free p&p

Examples from the book:

Our Story

For my own daughter, starting school was a really big deal. She was naturally very shy and found it hard to interact with the large numbers of unknown adults when she started school. Frankie demonstrated her discomfort by refusing to speak. She was incredibly chatty and lively at home as always. And we got told all about the details of her days - what they played in PE, what the lunchtime story was, who got told off etc. But she didn't mention, and nor did the school, that she wasn't actually speaking for them at all. Her teacher thought that Frankie wasn't able to speak and went down the route of special needs intervention. By the time I got to my first parents evening, they were teaching her makaton sign language. My first reaction was to be extremely frustrated that they hadn't bothered to ask me about any of it. But when I had calmed down I realized that this was actually a real problem. Although my belief was that it wouldn't be fixed by sign language, it was still a problem that needed fixing.

Our Solution

We made a picture book for Frankie to take her through the new things she was encountering at school and to demonstrate what she was expected to do. We showed her that when her teacher spoke to her, she was expected to make eye contact and reply. We showed her that it didn't matter if she talked quietly, but it did matter if she didn't answer. Frankie was able to look at the pictures and explain what she needed to do to join in with the activities. I realised that I had prepared her for the practicalities of school - like opening your own yoghurt and writing her name, but I hadn't ever thought about how to interact with other people. The book was a great way to start showing Frankie what she needed to do.

Some kids 'look before they leap'

Having used the book and the approach with Frankie, we soon found other children who needed similar help. For example, there was a little boy in Frankie's class who spent much of each day underneath a table! He was just as much of an introvert as Frankie and needed just as much help to work through the challenges of starting school. From helping a few children we've realized that this is very much about personality. Some children seem to take to new experiences and view it as an adventure - but some don't. If you have one of those children who need a bit more help to deal with new challenges then you just have a more cautious child. These are the 'look before you leap' kids, or as some books have it, they are 'slow to warm up'. These are the kids, like all of ours, who hang onto you at parties instead of joining in.

The Underlying Psychology

One of the most central tenets of educational theory over the last few decades has been the concept of ‘scaffolding’. Scaffolding describes the process of breaking a task down into smaller steps, and helping to bridge the gap between what the child already knows and the next steps in the challenge they are trying to face. This book uses the familiarity of story-telling to help children to bridge the gap between their already emerging social skills, and the specific requirements of the school setting. This helps to make their first year of formal school as positive as possible.

Why this book is different

There are many books for dealing with the practicalities such as where to eat your lunch or hang your coat. But for the child who is anxious or shy there is a minefield of expectations that they haven't encountered yet. This innovative picture book takes a novel psychological approach to one of the most crucial transitions in a child's life. The lively text with beautiful illustrations works through the anxieties and challenges of the first few weeks at school.

The reader and child are taken through a set of psychological techniques to foster the social skills needed for school:

  1. How to control anxieties

  2. Practise how to make friends

  3. Learn the right way to interact with teachers


***** "My little boy absolutely loved this book... Some superb techniques." SH on Amazon

"I read this book with my grand daughter when she was just starting school and feeling nervous. I found it very useful. It really helped her to feel more confident and gave her strategies to cope. The illustrations are lovely and having the badge was a bonus - 5 stars." review by LC

"My daughter enjoyed reading about the characters and doing the dragon breathing. I will definitely send her to school on the first day with the badges in her bag to remind her of the qualities they represent." ***** review on Amazon

Purchase starting school book

With all our best wishes,

Dr Helen Care, Child Psychologist

Claire Harmer, Specialist Teacher

Rachel Tustian, Writer & Parent

From A Confident Start - psychology that works for your family

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