The First day at School is a milestone for any child and parent. Practical Parenting tips to ensure its success and that your child will settle well.
The importance of the child being well rested, with a set routine in place in the week before school and a calm parent is crucial.
Routine is essential
Therefore, a set bedtime, set things up the night before (lunches, clothes set out, shoes, ties, hairbrush etc) and getting up in plenty of time are all essential. A set routine around homework including a set time, place and procedure.
Encourage independence as children love to learn so put cereals, bowls and spoons in a low cupboard so they can breakfast themselves at the weekend. Never do for a child what a child can do; or learn to do for themselves and you develop competence and confidence in your child. Take the time to show them how to do things, takes more time initially but pays off in the end. Give lots of encouragement and be patient as they learn.
Connect with another child from the class
Many schools have an Open Day where their child comes into the school for a half day pre summer. There they spend a while with their teacher and new classmates. If possible arrange to meet one or more parents and your child’s classmates in the Park before September. Then (with a little preplanning) your child arrives into the yard early to find familiar faces and someone to sit with. When I did this with my last child, she met her friend at the gate and I was told to leave!
Don’t let your anxiety become your child’s anxiety!
However, I did not handle my eldest child’s first Montessori day as well. Her crying resulted in me feeling upset and anxious and unable to leave. Looking back I can see that the teacher was experienced and needed an opportunity to settle her without my presence. Learn from my mistake and know when to leave, timing is crucial! Avoid making your child aware of your anxieties. I know now how natural it is to have a few tears and that it is likely my daughter would have settled shortly afterwards. My child picked up on my feelings of anxiety; therefore the parent needs to be solid for the child to feel secure enough to leave you.
Reassurance is vital – Stay firm, positive and empathetic if child anxious
Talk about what your child can expect when starting school and be calm, reassuring and positive with them. Do not dilute, dismiss or ignore their feelings but explore with them. If this is left to a day or two before school starts, it is too late. A child’s fears will arise from not knowing, therefore chat through the new things that will happen and reassure them that everything will be all right. If your child cries when you leave them, do not panic. An important note: do not disappear; always tell your child you are going and that you will be back. The teacher will advise you what to do and is very experienced in this regard. It is hard to leave but go and ask to be informed when your child has settled. You will be surprised how quickly they recover with the distraction of other children. Usually tears last between five to ten minutes for the first day or two. Certainly within a week you should find your child has settled.
Be on time to collect your child
A final word: be there early at pick up time as it is so stressful for a child not to see the parent immediately; and they have enough to cope with. Tell your child you are taking them for a smoothie after pick up on the first day so they have something special to look forward to and have your attention to tell you all about ‘big School’. Lots of reassurance and love helps in the early days.
Ensure some Time Out for you
If it is your first child starting school, you may be working or at home with smaller children, but when your last child starts school it can be very emotional for a mum. Think in advance about this, are you going to increase your work hours, or indeed return to work? Perhaps, you have opted to stay at home and therefore have an opportunity to take up a hobby or interest. For some, they may join a tennis club, gymnasium or a golf club, for another, it may be a class that interests them. If you are working and have little time, joining a School Committee may offer you support and help in the hard task of parenting. Any of these groups can be a valuable source of information for parents throughout the school years and help deal with issues that inevitably arise.
10 Tips to deal with the Practicalities:
- Make it easy for your child: Velcro runners, no tights, elasticised waists
- Label everything clearly with the child’s name
- Get your child into uniform before the big day and show Granny
- Easy to open lunchbox and shoulder strap schoolbag
- Order subsidised milk through school; its healthy & no bag spills
- Box of raisins or 10 grapes for ‘little break’
- Small lunch for ‘big break’, with quartered sandwich
- A drink in a plastic bag in outside pocket of schoolbag
- Uniform laid out the night before with shoes, socks, brush
- Get up half an hour earlier for a calm and happy home
10 Tips to deal with the Emotional side:
- Talk to your child, do not assume child knows what to expect
- Fears stem out of not knowing what will happen
- Do not belittle our child’s fears
- Your child may cry on the first day and that is okay, it is a release of emotions
- Do not overstay on the first day; 3-5 minutes is enough
- If you are twenty minutes in the classroom, that is too long
- Tell your child you are going and that you will be back
- Be early for pick up, or it is very stressful for a child
- Get support from other parents in the early days
- Join a School Committee, or take time for a hobby
Useful website: National Parents Council: www.npc.ie