Tips for Parents: First Day of School
The big day has arrived. Some mourn it. Some rejoice it. Either way it is the start of an era. Your baby is finally ready for school! Months of planning and preparation would be the stories of most mommies and daddies alike. As we prepare ourselves and our children emotionally and mentally it will suddenly dawn on us, goodness gracious how did the time fly by! It’s inevitable our minds would think up to 101 problems that could happen while we’re away from our babies, and as you do, we strike them down one by one and zap the issues down like flies. All this whilst doing the dishes or maybe if you’re lucky over coffee.
I can still remember sending off my 1st born to school, a mixture of excitement and anxiety overwhelmed me like a mad rush of the Babagon River on a rainy day. But there she was, ready as ever to experience the joy of meeting new friends and to finally have classroom experience of learning and playing in the big school. Luck was on my side, her 1st day in school was a success, so much so she refused to come home! However, it couldn’t have been so different with my 2nd born, we poured in the same amount of planning and preparation – yet the result was the total opposite.
Our initial thoughts were, where did we go wrong? Being in a room full of strangers combined with new rules and restrictions and unfamiliar surroundings was clearly too much of a change for my little one. It had been such a terrifying experience for him that we struggled to get him to school the next day, and the week after. It took him a while to find his feet but eventually school became less frightening and became more of a fun time away from home. He now enjoys school as much as the next kid. It’s important to also bear in mind that children’s reactions to school will differ from one kid to another so it’s important to show support and guidance.
Here are some tips that I found helpful from my own personal experience, from parents and friends alike, and media read ups that I would like to share:
#1 Talk About School
A great way to start off is to talk everything about the new school. Build up the excitement of new friends, new classroom, new environment, and new adventures. Walk through how the day would be like, from the getting ready in the mornings and to finally being able to wear that brand spanking new uniform, to packing their own lunch box. Some children get anxious and confused with new rules and punishments and it’s important to let them know ahead that they are placed to make sure everyone is safe and happy. Encouraging them to speak to their teachers will also help ease them through the first week. Be positive and supportive.
#2 School Sleep Routine
Children from the age of 3-5 years old are advised to get at least 10-13 hours of sleep daily, whereas school aged kids of 6-11 years old are recommended to get as much as 6-11 hours of rest. Over the course of long holidays, it’s normal that the children’s sleep pattern or routine get interrupted and stretched to a later time. Early bed routine should start within a week or two leading up to the 1st day of school. Allowing children to get use to the changes in good time will help them rest better and maintain the new routine. Well rested children function better at school and are a lot happier in the morning. Overall they will have a great start to the day – everyday.
Now that the 1st week has passed, and your child has suddenly a change of heart and decides to not wanting to go back to school. This is quite common as the excitement of going to school for the 1st week has worn off. All the anxiety with all the new changes has resurfaced and it has become much too overwhelming for their young minds. Instinctually, we tend to think of the worst and convinced there is something wrong with the school but in most cases, children just still feel nervous and at lost at their new grounds. Ask them how things went on a daily basis, ask simple questions and not indirectly asking what went wrong but rather what happened in school. Being specific with your questions such as, what’s their new friends names are? Who did they play with? Who they sat with at lunchtime and what new games they played and liked most.
No fear or joy is too little to be acknowledged. If your child mentions they were unhappy with someone at school, a boy or a girl being not so nice to them, talk it through and explain the boundary that they should be aware of and when to seek for teacher’s intervention. Some children are just more boisterous and aggressive than others but by letting your child know that the teachers are always there to help when they need them will hopefully keep them rest assured. You can also advise them to play with other children instead but if the problem persist it’s a good idea to speak to the teacher directly and voice your concern. Encourage your children to share about their day in school. I normally ask my kids about their day in school over dinner time, it’s a great conversation starter.
#4 School Shopping Together
This is a great way to get your child to be more positive and excited with starting school. Shopping for school stuff together is not only a great bonding time opportunity but it will adherently give them a sense of responsibility for themselves and their belongings. Also, it’s an uplifting realisation that they’re tad bit older now.
#5 Expectations On Your Child
As they start one of the most important phase of their development, it is natural us parents want the absolute best for them and for them to be the best. But as the saying goes, one step at a time. Try to not expect so much from them with regards to development achievements, such as knowing their ABCs, numbers, reading and such. Every milestone achieved is great, even the smallest achievement shouldn’t go unpraised. Support these steps forward with gratitude and positiveness and refrain from highlighting the ones they have yet to achieve. Also, be mindful for tell-tale signs your child showing signs of stress. With a big transition and changes in their life, stress even for young children at this stage is not uncommon. At most it will resolve on its own but it’s important to acknowledge it and monitor them, because prolonged stress in young children can prevent both brain development and physical growth.
#6 Teachers As Resources
On the first day, if possible introduce yourself and your child personally to the class teacher. Maybe have a brief conversation about your child, their likes and interest could come in helpful for the teacher in getting to know your child. The first meet and greet is very important to establish trust and easing them through the first hurdle of the day. Encourage your child to say hello to new faces and introducing themselves and vice versa. Initiate a good relationship with your children’s teachers, because they will be the mother/ father figure for your children and your main person of contact while they’re in school. Voice any concern to the teacher, highlighting extra attention if your child has medical condition such as asthmatic, or allergies etc.
#7. Goodbye Rituals
Last but certainly not the least of the tips, the goodbye rituals to your kids as you leave them with their trusted teacher for the day. You will most likely be torn in two, doubting yourself whether you should stay or leave. Don’t worry, tears and screams are normal, and you’re not a bad parent by walking away. Explain to them that you will be back to collect them as soon as school ends, at the very place you left them. As upset as you are and as unbearable the separation can be – do not let your kids see you weep! Hold it in and you can let it all go in the car or bus on your way home. Make your goodbye rituals sweet and brief, say a little prayer if it helps and leave them in a happy mode so you can both look forward to seeing each other at the end of the day. Happy parents, happy kid, happy days!
So parents, I wish you the best of luck and do enjoy this precious milestone together. Take pride and comfort knowing that you have gotten your kids on the best possible start. I find it is always great sharing and talking to other parents who is in similar shoes, casual chit chat does wonders in uplifting the nerves and worries. I hope these tips comes in useful but at the end of the day, you know what’s best for your kids.
Written by Laura Andrew-Graham, Mother of Three, Photographer and Screen Writer