With the new school year fast approaching, we thought it would be great to help get you starting to think about ways to prepare your children for the year ahead.
It’s also a really good idea to get yourselves organised well in advance, as there are always heaps of things to tick off the ‘back to school’ list leading up to the first day back. These could include things like ensuring all school books have been purchased, signing and sending away any forms, making sure all uniform requirements are met, buying new school shoes if necessary, labelling of belongings, etc. It’s always a great idea to get your children involved in these things too, as it will help them learn some organisational skills!
Beat the post-holiday blues
We’ve all had solid doses of the post-holiday blues, and the end of the summer break may see your little ones suffering the same fate. The best way to help mitigate this is to get your children excited about the new school year, and to get them thinking about what it is they’re most looking forward to. Get the conversation going about what they hope to learn, what teacher they’re hoping to have, what friends they are banking on being in their class, or even simply talk about the more practical side of things like transport arrangements.
If, over the school holidays, your children have fallen out of their usual morning and evening routines, then it’s a good idea to slowly reintroduce them again before the first day back at school. We don’t want tired and grumpy kids to deal with now do we?! Doing this will also ensure that their first week back at school isn’t too overwhelming, especially if after-school activities are at play as well. A good way to do this is to slowly bring their bed time closer and closer to normal each day leading up to the first day back, and to take the same approach with when you wake them up in the mornings.
Is your child feeling anxious or starting school for the first time?
If your child is feeling a little anxious about going back to school, or is about to start school for the first time, then you may need to take a few more detailed steps with them before their first day. It’s good to help them discuss why they’re feeling anxious, and help them think of ways to overcome the difficulties they are feeling. If you, or someone you know has also felt these things in the past, then it would be great to use these as examples to show them that they too can overcome their fears.
If they're feeling apprehensive about the transport side of things, then you could always do a trial run with them (and with your nanny if you have one!). Or, if they’re feeling scared about not knowing anyone, then it can be a good idea to arrange some playdates with other parents’ kids’ who you know will be attending the same school. It will help put them at ease if they know they’ll have a familiar face to look for on their first day.
Or perhaps they’re suffering from a touch of separation anxiety? This can be the biggest challenge for many children. So that it’s not such a shock when the time comes, facilitating ‘practice goodbyes’ by arranging small separations can be a really good idea. Aha Parenting suggest that you develop a good parting routine as well, such as a hug and a saying like “I love you, you love me, have a great day and I’ll see you at 3!”
It can also be a really great idea to help familiarise your child with anything new (related to school) as much as possible. For example, taking them into their new classroom before the first day of school will help them feel confident that they know where to go. If there are any orientation opportunities available to you and your children, then take advantage of them!
Discussing a plan of attack should anything ever go wrong is another fantastic way to help your child feel prepared, as we can never anticipate everything that could happen during a school day. Come up with a plan for when situations may not go as planned.
Also, if they’re completely new to school, then it can be great to help your child practice certain social skills. For example, how to use public toilets and explaining that at school there are separate toilets for boys and girls. Or practicing how to unpack their school bags at school, and practicing eating their lunch out of their lunchbox. If your child will be wearing a uniform, it’s also good to get them used to how it is supposed to be worn.
Finally, when the big day arrives…
…try to remain as calm as possible in your interactions with your child(ren) so as not to add to any apprehension or stress they may have toward starting or being back at school. It’s always important to remember that children pick up on their parents’ feelings and behaviour, and will only mirror the vibe you’re letting off!
That’s not to say you won’t be having your own emotional responses to your child going back to (or starting!) school, so it can also be useful to look looking into ways you can support yourself with this.
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