Friday, January 15, 2016

Starting School - Five Tips For Making It Easy

IMAGE: THE MOTHER LOAD | Starting School
Have you got a little one starting school this year? How exciting! No really - it is!

You may be punching the air with jubilation at the prospect your child stepping into this new chapter, or perhaps you're feeling a little nervous and sad as you say goodbye to endless days spent together having pyjama mornings, morning babycinos at your favourite cafe and daily nourishing day naps. That's okay. It's kinda normal to feel a tinge of sadness; in fact it's kinda normal to feel both excited and a little sad all at once. After all, it was really only five minutes ago that we were wearing our favourite maternity outfits and affectionately referring to 'the bump' wasn't it? The beginning of a little person's school journey is a wonderful milestone and these years will bring them so much happiness, excitement, independence and amazement as they learn all about the world around them.  With that in mind, I thought I would share a few things that I think you can do to make the transition as easy as possible for both of you (but mostly for them!). There's no hard and fast rules but here's what I learned from our experiences of starting school all those years ago.


Firstly, try and start off on the right foot - literally. If your child has a brand spanking new pair of shiny school shoes for the year ahead, have them wear them around the house in the holidays before they go back to school. Whack a pair of school socks on with the shoes and let the breaking in happen at home gradually because those hard leather clod-hoppers can be a bit rough on soft little feet in the first few days. If the odd Band-aid is required, it's better that you're there to sort out the problem before any nasty blisters take hold and in turn, shake their confidence with a worry about sore feet. The shoes will loosen pretty quickly and just a couple of hours each day for a week will ensure that on day one their feet are prepped and rearing to go.


If you plan to walk to school, why not do a couple of practice runs? The more familiar your child is with their new daily routine, the more confident he or she will feel once the school year commences. You could even do the walk in the new school shoes if you want to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone? Hello, multi-tasking!


This may sound silly, but if they have a new 'big kid' lunchbox always make sure their little fingers can easily open whatever latch is securing it closed.  Sounds obvious but those clasps have broken more of my nails than I care to remember so try and do a few practice runs on the opening and closing to ensure your little one isn't going to starve for the first few days!


The first day of school can be a melting pot of emotions both for your little person and for you. There will be huge excitement about wearing a new school uniform and carrying a new shiny school bag but there may be tears and trepidation about saying goodbye to you. Both are normal and none of these emotions will last forever. The tears will eventually disappear as they become familiar with their surroundings and understand the safety of their new routine, and I guarantee that within a week they won't show any excitement about carrying their own school bag regardless of whatever bribe you offer! All I would say is try and remain upbeat regardless of how you're really feeling as you walk through the school gates because they're likely to take all of their emotional cues from you. If they are feeling sad or teary, offer encouragement and reassurance. Say hi to their teacher if you can - a good teacher will always assist your child with their first day nerves by offering a smile and some distraction and reassurance about the exciting day ahead. (Teachers really do know what they're doing with the settling in stuff). When it's time for you to leave, look your little one in the eye, give them a hug and a big smile, say your goodbyes and tell them you'll be there waiting for them at the end of their first day. It often goes against every parenting instinct you have but try not to hang around - your presence can at times make things worse if your child is a little anxious or teary. Then most importantly, once you're outta sight, hightail it to the nearest coffee shop and order yourself something large and strong 'cos you've earned it! (Then repeat this step on day two, three, four and so on!).


In the early weeks and months of school, you won't believe just how tired your child will get. I mean really tired - you know, that falling-asleep-at-the-dinner-table tired like they did when they were nine months old? Yeah - that. All the learning, concentrating and playing is a huge overload for them and you'll be the one to cop the exhaustive results of that at the end of each day. If possible, keep things simple and don't add too many extra-curricular activities or you'll wear them out. Trust me on this one - ditch the ballet, swimming lessons, karate and violin for at least the first term while they get used to being a school kid. These things can always be re-introduced when you see them gaining some resilience as the months go on and there are so many years ahead for all those extra skills and adventures. Less is definitely more in the early months. 

So for anyone who has a child starting school in the weeks ahead, congratulations and enjoy this special time! You've reached a really lovely place in your parent/ child relationship where friendships grow (both for your child and also for you) and your child gains more independence and wisdom than you ever thought possible. And while on your first day these school years seems to stretch ahead of you without an end in sight, there comes a time when you realise that in fact they're flying past at the speed of light as you peel back the years and leave each beloved teacher behind you. All the best!

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