Starting school: emotional needs

Supporting children's emotional needs as they start school.

The first few weeks

  • Many children settle into school life easily, while others take longer. Don’t worry if your child is tearful and clingy for the first few days – it’s quite normal. Although you might feel terrible leaving them, they will most likely be playing quite happily within a few minutes.
  • If your child seems exhausted at the end of the day, let them have some quiet time or even a nap when they get home. If they’re starving hungry, a healthy snack and drink can help restore energy levels.
  • Let your child get used to school life before introducing afterschool activities. It’s a good idea to keep the first few weekends quiet, too, as they will likely need time to recharge, just as we do when we start a new job or a big project.
  • Keep talking to your child about their feelings about school, and put aside some special time to chat about their day. Some children are enthusiastic at first, but once the reality of going to school day after day sets in, they can become reluctant. If this happens with your child, use a calendar to help them understand when weekends and holidays are coming up. You might want to arrange a few treats for them to look forward to as well.

Resources for parents

  • Dear Teacher...  Starting school can be an emotional time for parents and carers as well as children. This touching poem by Emma Robinson expresses some of the common worries.
  • Summer loss. Summer loss is the phrase used to describe the decline in academic skills and knowledge over the course of the summer months. This factsheet looks at how parents and professionals can continue to support children's learning over the long summer break. 

Resources for childcare professionals and schools