How to cope with primary school stress

Vera turned four this year, and already I’ve started to get questions about where we intend to enrol her for her primary education.

There’s only one word to describe how I feel whenever I get asked.


There’s something so unknown and unfamiliar about primary school that makes me break in cold sweat. Plus all the stories I hear about daily homework and what-nots.

I recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with Fiona Walker, Principal of Schools, Julia Gabriel Education. Naturally, I asked her the questions I had in my mind about primary school education and how to prepare my child for it.

Here’s what she shared with me…


1. What do you identify as the key sources of pre-primary stress? How can parents prepare ourselves to deal with these?

I think that parents themselves are one of the sources of pre-primary stress. There is an element of group hysteria in the need to make sure children are prepared for primary school and the focus is on academic readiness. Because of this, there is a huge market in enrichment classes and tuition schools who feed on the concern by providing courses and classes, which “prepare” children for primary school.

Very often, once the child enters Primary One and is able to cope with the school work, the worry evaporates. For this reason, first time parents are usually much more concerned than parents who have had other children go into primary school.

To avoid being caught up in group pressure, make sure you find out what exactly are the requirements of primary school. Ensure your child meets those criteria but also keep your expectations realistic.

2. How can parents prepare their children to better cope with the transition?

The move to primary school is a big transition for any child. They will go from being the eldest in their preschool, which is usually in a small nurturing environment, to being the youngest in a large and initially confusing school.

Most children find the level of independence expected a bit daunting. I think that a visit to the new primary school is great. The more familiar they can be with the new environment or new routine, the better. Also prepare your child for buying food in the canteen, by giving them opportunity to ask for food in the food court and handle money when making a purchase.

There is a huge amount of emphasis placed on all the things they must do and remember and this can produce a bit of anxiety, so take the time to talk to your child about your happy memories from primary school. Talk about the friendships you made, the adventures you had and the experiences you remember.

Children going into primary school are six years old – still very young. They must not feel burdened by the worries you may have.

3. Which is more important? Academic preparedness or social-emotional preparedness, or both? Why?

In Singapore, both are important. Our school system requires children to have certain academic skills when they enter Primary One, so it is important they are able to manage the workload.

However a child who has confidence and resilience is more likely to enjoy the experience. Strong social skills and healthy self-esteem will mean they find it easier to make friends and ask questions when they are unsure.

If I had to just pick one though, I would choose social-emotional preparedness because it is generally easier for a child to pick up the academic skills if they didn’t have them than build low self confidence, especially if they have found the experience of a new school and social environment distressing.

4. If you could give parents in Singapore a word of advice, what would it be?

Here are two pieces of advice:

  • You know your child best so have realistic expectations. By all means, shoot for the stars but be fair. It is not fair to expect a child who has no Mandarin exposure outside of his hour-a-day, five-days-a-week in preschool to get 95 per cent all the way through primary school.
  • Remember childhood is short and there is no one out there who is going to protect your child’s childhood other than you. If you don’t carve out time for him to explore, play and dream, no one else will and your child will have been robbed of the most magical time of their lives. You can’t get it back!!


I hope these insights are able to give us some new ideas in navigating this rather touchy topic.

I really value Fiona’s reminder that we as parents are also guardians of our children’s most precious time of their lives – their childhood…

What comes to your mind when you think about primary school education for your child? How would you like your child to experience primary school? 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. says

    The husband and I decided early on that we would not be stressed about P1. So we didn’t do any parent volunteering and the only research we did was to look at the schools within a 1km radius of the house, and shortlist two schools with good track records. Then we simply applied to the first school and got in without having to ballot. When it came time to move, we put Alison down on the waitlist at three schools that we liked and that were located near the new house, and enrolled her in the first one that had a place free up. Because of that, we didn’t have to worry about where Zoe would go when it was her turn.

    What comes to my mind when I think about primary school? Unnecessary stress because of the tough syllabus. But we are blessed because the girls are in a school that emphasises holistic development, so there is less stress in terms of the school’s expectations and pressure on the kids.
    Jean recently posted..Havaianas Disney range.My Profile

    • mamawearpapashirt says

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Jean. I would like an environment that takes a more holistic approach to learning too. The hubby and I have been discussing various options for the past few months – mainly because the topic of moving closer to my alma mater came up one day. But we’ve decided against the move, as there will be new schools coming up in the vicinity, and that could be a viable option for the kids although they don’t have the benefit of a strong history and track record. Will just have to continue to pray and see, as we still have some time.

  2. says

    This is such a useful post and one much-needed in our day. Thank you.

    When we started homeschooling for the preschool years, we decided that our goals were to build a strong parent-child relationship, build on social-emotional preparedness and nurture a desire to learn through intrinsic motivation rather than external rewards.

    When we had to think of P1 (we call it Standard 1 in Malaysia), we chose the nearest public school so that we could also build relationships with same-school going families in the neighbourhood. There was a preschool class in the school, which was great because that meant an easy transition to P1. To get her used to formal schooling outside the home, Puppy went to that preschool at 6. Come 7, she had lots of friends to reunite with when P1 started. She breezed through the first week and is thoroughly enjoying herself.

    There’s a lot of pressure for kids to perform, live up to an unnecessarily tough standard, it’s sad. They’re only children. They should enjoy their childhood and look forward to learning rather than be burdened by it.
    Mama J@Mama, Hear Me Roar recently posted..Happenings in our gardenMy Profile

    • mamawearpapashirt says

      So glad that Puppy made such a smooth transition, kudos to you for making that decision to enrol her at 6. Yes, I do agree, the attitude and love of learning is more important than the actual activities themselves. If the desire to learn is there (intrinsically motivated as your mentioned), I think there’s no stopping at good grades at school, it’ll probably help them dream big, develop as a person, and work hard at achieving their goals in life, later on.

      Thanks so much for adding to this discussion with your views and experience, mama J!

  3. says

    A very useful article and I too, really like the advice that we should protect our children’s childhood. It will be a few years more before I really need to sit down to think about this but I would really want an environment that focuses on developing a child holistically rather than just academically.
    Zee recently posted..Day 9: Barcelona – La Liga live at Camp NouMy Profile

    • mamawearpapashirt says

      Me too, Zee, and I hope us parents as well as teachers as well as entire school systems really make “holistic learning” a reality, rather than just an empty buzzword. (That’s a reminder to myself too.)

  4. says

    WOW June, this couldn’t come to me in a more timely manners! My son is about to start primary school in July. Yes, I am stressed. Yes, I am worried about him. I will have to print this out and read it daily. Thank you so much for this 🙂
    Maureen@ScoopsofJoy recently posted..I Choose LoveMy Profile

    • mamawearpapashirt says

      Hey Maureen, so glad this is timely for you! All the best for your kiddo in July, am sure he’ll be fine. (As long as you are there for him and rooting for him, I’m pretty sure he will adjust well!)

  5. says

    Really this is the very useful article, I really like the advice that we should protect our children’s childhood through the best education. Here at QandA you can get more relevant tips about primary school education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge