Your little love is heading to school! Whether they are putting on their uniform for the first time or are a returning student, heading back into the classroom can be a tricky transition after a fun holiday season. Here I give you tips to make this potentially challenging milestone a little easier for you and your child.
Talk about what’s coming
The best way to demystify the impending school experience is to talk about it as much as possible. Discuss what’s coming – a new teacher, new (and old) friends, a new classroom, lots of new interesting things to learn; As well as addressing any concerns your child may have, including being away from you for long stretches, being in an unfamiliar environment, or the idea of sitting still at a desk for hours. By talking about anything that intimidates them, you can shed positive light on their fears. Remind them that their teacher is there to care for them and they will have the chance to play with their friends between classes. Additionally, you can organize a school/classroom tour and meet with the teacher ahead of term, so your child can envision where, and with who, they will be spending their days. There are also some fantastic picture books themed around the ‘Starting School’ topic that you can read them in the weeks leading up to school kick-off.
Help them feel supported
Entering the school system is a huge milestone in a child’s life. It is the moment when the umbilical cord is well and truly stretched as a mother and a time when your child is discovering a whole new world outside the family home and pre-school environment. One of the easiest and best ways to help your child feel confident about starting school is to buddy up with a friend whose child is attending the same class as yours. Organise play dates and hang out as much as possible, so by the time school starts your child has at least one other person in the classroom who is a familiar friend.
Another sweet trick is to leave little messages in your child's lunchbox. If your little one is too small to read yet, it could be as simple as a love heart drawing or a smiley face to let them know you are thinking of them even while they’re at school. Another tip is to make pick-up time special, by bringing a yummy afternoon snack or taking them to the park after school. Rather than asking them a blanket question when they get into the car such as ‘How was school today?’, ask them something more specific such as, ‘What was your favourite thing about today?’
Get a routine ahead of schedule
When children are tired, emotions tend to skyrocket. So in the weeks leading up to school commencement, start mellowing out your daily schedule and winding down daily activities, so your child isn't exhausted when school actually starts. Be mindful of the routine you will need to adopt when you don’t have the luxury of sleep-in’s, leisurely morning breakfasts or afternoon naps. Start setting the clock as you’ll need to when the school year begins, encouraging them to get dressed, eat breakfast and brush their teeth in time for you to get out the door at a scheduled time. That way, they’ll be prepared when they need to be out the door in time for the real school run. Factor in time for you to grab a cup of tea and make lunchboxes, so you’re not in a fluster each morning. Similarly, make sure they’re going to bed early and getting enough zzz’s so they have the energy and stamina to concentrate in the classroom.
Take them shopping
One way to increase your child’s excitement and lessen any back-to-school anxiety is to head to the shops together to buy new school supplies. Picking out stationary, a pencil-case, backpack, drink bottle, new shoes and a cute new school lunchbox is a great way to get them involved in the preparation process. Once you have everything they need to be school-ready, they can decorate their books, try on their new uniform and pack their bag in anticipation of the big day. They can even help you label everything so they recognize their belongings. As well as the essentials, buy them a special calendar that they can hang in their room and cross off the days until school starts. Mark in all the school holidays and any special school events too, so they have something to look forward to during the school term.
Talk about the school rules
Although teachers will outline specific school rules and will be the ones enforcing them, it’s important for your child to understand that school is different to daycare, kindergarten and preschool and that they will need to follow some new rules. When children are in an unfamiliar environment or nervous they sometimes clam up, so it’s important to remind them about simple things such as raising their hand when they want to speak in class, letting the teacher know if they need to go to the toilet, or speaking to the teacher if another child is being unkind to them. We are living through a unique time in history where mask-wearing, vigilant hand-hygiene and social-distancing have (sadly) become the norm. Prepare your child for this by making sure they practice good hygiene habits and discussing the possibility of their teacher wearing a mask sometimes. That said, don't go overboard or they might get unnecessarily worried or nervous. The goal is to prepare them without overwhelming them.