As a busy, working mother of four children – Olivia, 9, Ruby, 7, Henry, 3, and Georgia, 2 – Jo O’Brien knows all too well how challenging transitions in a child’s life can be.
Jo co-jointly runs three of Sydney’s newest Catholic preschools. Her experience resonates with fellow parents around the globe who have to manage busy school routines, with full-time work as well as parenting concerns about discipline, behaviour, potty training, nurturing the Catholic faith and special school needs.
“I get it. It’s back to school at my house this week,” said Mrs O’Brien. “My eldest daughter wore the wrong uniform to school. While she was a little upset that she couldn’t play sport, she didn’t cry. My 24-month-old has started preschool with her older brother – and while she has already been potty trained and has transitioned successfully, we are doing everything to help my son Henry because he has special needs.”
Mrs O’Brien says that she has re-arranged her whole life and her own routine to make sure she caters to her children’s needs but without them knowing it. She shares some of her own road-tested parenting tips and what she believes are the most important milestones in a child’s development in the first nine years.
“The first important milestone is establishing a good sleep and feeding routine in their first three months. As they get older, it’s important to maintain that routine but also to bring happiness in to your child’s life. When they reach the age of one, keep in mind that they are reaching all their age-specific milestones like standing or walking when they’re supposed to, and if they are not, trust in your gut and speak to your doctor about it – don’t get caught up speaking to other mums and comparing,” she warns.
“Once your child hits two years of age, be mindful that they are wanting to be their own little person. Help create an environment that encourages them to be independent.”
Mrs O’Brien believes that going to preschool is a great precursor to transitioning to school.
“Toddlers are at the age where they want to do everything on their own so you need people skilled in building their independence. Understand kids at this age can be very capable. You should never stump their growth,” she said. “Seeing them thrive in a big environment and smile as they find their lunch boxes or develop new relationships, gives them a sense of belonging and fills them with self confidence and self esteem.”
“Once the prospect of transitioning to Kindergarten is in sight, I like to prepare them 18 months in advance. I will start driving or walking past the school, talking about it, and showing them pictures. Then when they start school, I think it’s important to instil in your child independence, confidence, coping skills, self-discipline, resilience and being kind to others,” Mrs O’Brien added.
“I remember the proudest moment that I have had was when I learned last year that both my daughters, aged eight and six at the time, stood up for girls who had been teased in their class on two separate occasions. I was proud that they wouldn’t just stand by and let someone else get hurt.”
Mrs O’Brien says that even if you decide not to send your child to preschool, it’s still very important to transition them in some way so that they that they can have a great time when they start school without their mum or dad.
“A child needs to feel safe and content to be able to learn,” she says. “As a mum you need to choose the right preschool and school that shares your values, and one in which the staff are open, caring and compassionate.”
Platinum Pre Schools provide early education and school readiness services in a faith-centred environment to children aged 3 to 5 years under its umbrella of brands: Platinum Randwick, Platinum Prestons and Platinum Clovelly, which is opening in August this year.