by Juliet Rogers
The first day of a new school year is nearly upon us!
For some parents and carers, it will mean celebrations, high fives, dancing in the streets and whoops of joy that the school holidays, tantrums and constant exclamations of “I’m bored” are at an end.
For others, it means the first day of big school for their baby is fast approaching. It can be an emotional and potentially traumatic time for both adults and children alike.
We’ve put together a few pointers that might help you all get through the experience and, hopefully, come out the other side feeling positive for the educational future of your not so little one.
Make the day special
This day is about your child and the incredible journey upon which they are about to start. To help with the emotions and nerves, focus on making the day special and memorable. Concentrate on your school starting child, where you can – it’s not easy if you have other little ones, I know – but some ideas could include;
- start a new tradition for the first day of each school year
- have a family breakfast
- take photographs
- add something special to their lunch box
- go for an after school treat
Perhaps get your child to decide what they’d like to do?
Entrust responsibility of their bag
Their new school bag is not only a functional part of your child’s school day but also an opportunity for your child to take responsibility for their own things.
Pack the bag together, label it and / or add personal elements (a key ring or tag will also help with easier identification when it’s lined up with 19 other identical bags) so they are familiar with it and its contents as well as take pride in what it looks like. Get them to carry into school too.
If you are providing lunches, recess and crunch n sip make sure your child can open the containers (again labelled) and they fit nicely in the bag, as well as a water bottle.
Include a spare set out clothes, particularly undies, in the bag. Whilst they may have gone months, perhaps years, without an accident, mishaps do happen in a new environment. Knowing they have a spare set in their bag may just make the difference between a relaxed or completely embarrassing situation for your child.
When you get home, continue the responsibility by getting your child to unpack their bag. This is also important so that you don’t miss any important notes and that rogue banana doesn’t rot in the bottom of the bag!
Be ready for pick up time
Make sure you arrive in plenty of time for afternoon pick up. Parking around a school might be at a premium and the last thing you want is to be stressing about finding a spot whilst the end of the day bell rings.
If you get their way too early then take a look at this and see if you can already pick out the different types of mum at the school gate (or can recognise yourself)?!
When your child leaves the classroom, it’s very tempting just to ask them how their day went. If you do you might find you receive a “fine” or “ok” in response. They’ll probably be tired so some more targeted questions you could ask are;
- Who did you sit next to in class?
- What was the best thing you did today?
- Where’s the best place to play at lunch?
- Tell me one thing you learned today.
- Tell me a weird word you heard today (or something weird that someone said).
- Tell me something that made you laugh today.
Trust that you are both ready
The decision to send your child to school this year may have been a no-brainer or may have been a long and drawn-out emotional journey of being unsure if they are ready or not. However you’ve got to this point, trust that you are both ready (perhaps them more so than you?) and that you WILL get through the first day, term and year together.
The school community is a huge supporting resource – teachers, support and administrative staff, volunteers and other parents will know and appreciate the challenges of day one, and indeed the first year, so don’t be afraid to seek out help or advice.
Be confident in the knowledge that your child will make new friends, as will you. There will be ups and downs but there will also be plenty of fun along the way.
Emotions may run high
There may be tears, refusing to let go, shouts of “don’t leave me”. And that’s just from you! Seriously though, there will be a mix of emotions experienced. Embrace them! This first day into education IS important so your emotions may reflect that. But, don’t let the fears, tears and worry spoil it.
Like with so many other things during your child’s development, they will take cues from you and your behaviour. Be prepared with tissues, cuddles, calm words and a plan for the rest of the day for yourself if you need to keep occupied.
Most importantly listen. Listen to their stories, concerns, excitement. They might talk ten to the dozen or they might be very quiet and overwhelmed. Either way, be attentive and responsive so they know you are there for them and just them for those few moments at the end of the day. They might just need a big hug and a “well done – you did it” or they might need you to listen, nod and whoop in the right places. Every child is different…
Finally, enjoy it! It might not be too long before you roll your eyes and sigh at the homework that’s coming home every night!