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Preparing for School - My Tips For Parents
First Day of School Advice
Member Name: jo1976
First Day of School Advice
Date: 21/09/13, updated on 02/12/13 (57 review reads)
Advantages: Preparation reduces anxiety for both parent and child
Disadvantages: All children will react differently to new situations and may take longer to adjust
As a mother of three boys, aged ten, six and three, I have had experience of settling youngsters in to a new school and am all too familiar with the anxieties for both parent and child. Earlier this week, my youngest son began pre-school at my older son's first (primary) school, complete with full school uniform, despite only turning three a couple of week's earlier!
My younger children had the advantage of being familiar with their future school before attending, simply through completing the school run to pick up their older sibling(s). I do think this made it much easier for them to adapt to the idea of going to school as it was already a familiar concept to them. For the first child in a family, it is really important to take them to see the school beforehand. Most schools are really conscious of this and hold open days or transition days where children have the opportunity to come into school beforehand, which helps to build up their confidence and makes the process of starting school slightly less daunting.
I also think these introductory sessions are crucials for parents as it gives you a chance to meet the key members of staff, learn names and the practical details such as drop off times, parking areas and which doors/areas to wait for the children at the end of the day. Knowing all of these specific details can help to reduce anxiety for the parents which is often just as important as a stressed parent is likely to have an impact on the child's state of mind too.
With very young children, I'd recommend preparing them for the idea of children using the details that you already know, so, again, making sure you know the names of their key teachers and assistants is really helpful so these can become familiar terms to your child before they start. I've also found role plays, playing 'schools' a really helpful way of preparing my kids - especially when I've acted the role of the child and they've taken on the role of the teacher. My kids love saying 'Don't worry. Mummy will come and pick you up after you've had a little play and some fruit and milk.'
There are also lots of really well written story books available about schools and first days at school, all of which raise some potential sources of anxiety but turn out well in the end. My boys' favourite is one where Splat the Cat starts school and takes his pet mouse into the classroom with him!
My top tips to make life much easier, from a practical parent's point of view, include being really organised as it can be really overwhelming to discover just how many different activities and events that a child (and parent) will be involved in at school. It is much easier to keep on top of things if you are prepared even before they actually start.
I have learnt the hard way the importance of having an accessible calendar and recording all those crucial dates; including term dates, teacher training days, birthday parties, open days, sports days, harvest festivals, non uniform days, plays and all the other special events designed to throw otherwise organised families into disarray! An ordinary calendar is perfectly sufficient, providing everything is clearly listed as soon as the details are announced and, of course, checked on a daily basis. For larger families, I'd recommend paying a little extra for a planner style calendar, which offers more space for different family members as well as a little pocket for letters and invitations to be stored away safely. (I'm currently using a Gruffalo planner which starts from the academic year, so no need to wait until next January to purchase and feel better prepared.) Being well prepared, even before your child has started their first day at school which help in the long term and prevents sending your child into school on a holiday (done that) or in uniform on a non-uniform or dressing up day (done that) or without some vital piece of equipment for a special project (done that too!)
My other tip as a long-suffering parent is to label absolutely everything. I usually use the iron on labels (as I detest sewing slightly more than I detest ironing) but this year, with three kids' belongings to label, I have tried out an incredibly easy system of clip on name tags (Easy fix clip ons from Nametags4U.) They were certainly easy to attach but only time will tell whether they are durable enough to withstand a full school year. It is not only clothing that needs to be clearly labelled with your child's name - everything from their lunch box, wellies, PE kit, right down to their shoes needs to be clearly named. (You might well think that surely a child won't be able to lose their own shoes - until your child arrives home with two seemingly identical shoes, only to notice that one shoe is a smaller size than the other! With many parents buying Clarks shoes and kids far too busy to worry about small details such as their shoes fitting, this is far from unusual. If both shoes are named, it is much easier to track down the rightful owner and switch back.)
My final tip, certainly with boys, is to have their hair trimmed nice and short before their first day at school to avoid them bringing home any unwelcome little guests! Don't forget to take some photos of your little one before they set off to school, looking oh so smart in their new uniform.
I would also say that, even if your child does appear reluctant or anxious about the idea of starting at school, the reality will often be much better. A crying child on day one is pretty common but most children will be heading off to the classroom without so much as a backward glance by the end of the second week.
Summary: An emotional experience for all concerned