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Exploring School Readiness – Social and Emotional Development

Social and emotional development refers to a child’s ability to interact with others, understand their own feelings and those of others and regulate their behaviour – this includes attention, impulsivity and emotional responses to the actions of others as well as their ability to manage separation anxiety and resilience when faced with challenges. Please bear in mind that this article is directed at typically developing children and may not be relevant if your child has been identified as being Neurodiverse (Autistic, ADHD etc) or has developmental delays.

In my experience, social and emotional development is by far the most important factor when it comes to considering whether a child is ready for school. Unlike physical skills, which can be worked on and caught up to a certain extent, social and emotional skills often just need time to develop, which allows the child to mature.

When considering whether your child is ready for school, I would ask yourself questions like:

  • Can your child sit with a group and listen to an adult for 15 minutes?
  • Can your child sit at a table and engage in tabletop activities for 15 minutes?
  • Does your child engage in play with 2-3 children at a time?
  • Does your child separate from you without becoming distressed?
  • Can your child “bounce back” from disappointment or challenges?

In NSW, there will potentially be an 18-month age difference between the youngest and oldest children starting Kindergarten. This allows for a huge spectrum of where children are at developmentally when they start school.

Taking that into consideration, if your child:

  • Responds aggressively when upset or challenged
  • Shuts down, cries or withdraws when challenged
  • Is unable to remain seated either on the floor or at a table
  • Is unable to separate from caregivers
  • Does not engage in cooperative or collaborative play with peers
  • Absconds or runs away from adults when distressed

Then it may be worthwhile chatting to your early childhood educators about whether they believe your child is ready for school, or if they would recommend seeking further support through your GP, an occupational therapist or child psychologist.

Guest Author: Julia Hay, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, offers specialist paediatric OT services for children aged 0-18 for children with sensory processing differences, Autism, ADHD, ODD, Anxiety and complex needs. Julia’s Place was started in 2016 by Julia Hay. After 5 years working in Sydney’s Inner West, Julia saw the opportunity to provide specific services in the North West and North Shore of Sydney too.

Previous articles from Julia Hay:


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