Having a little one starting school is a big day for them and for mum.
While some mothers are ecstatic that their little one is finally off to big school, no more daycare fees, no more multi drop-offs, no more child-under-their-feet each weekday; there is another and, often, much larger group of mothers that mourn the day their little one starts big school.
It is a big deal when our child starts school. They are becoming independent; they are getting bigger. No longer our completely dependent baby we nurtured, fed and bathed, they are no growing into a little person. This little person we know will have their own agenda in time to come. We can feel less vital in their life and this is sometimes rather confronting.
What we as mums must remember is this big day for our child can be made either easier or harder by us. While we may struggle slightly with emotions as they let go of our hand to walk into their new class. We know we must put on that brave smiling face, tell them how great it is going to be, what fun they will have, how much they will learn, as we turn and leave the school grounds before often breaking down into a mess of tears. We then wait all day until that bell sounds so we can again embrace our baby and find out all the exciting details of their day.
How then do we prepare our child to ensure their first school days are happy and exciting instead of being filled with tears and fear?
- Have a few trial lunch days where you pack the child a lunch box at home (if not done at preschool) and ensure they eat correct little lunch first, then big lunch. This is particularly important if all food is in one lunch box. And ensure they can unwrap their lunch.
- Take the child to the school and show them around. Many children are scared they do not know where their classroom is or where the toilets are. Show them the Kindy area and location of their toilets. Allow them to feel comfortable, confident and excited about starting big school.
- Children need to be aware of the time frame of preparing for school each morning. Much conflict erupts of a morning between parents and children when the children are slow to become ready for school or bus. Set clear expectations and consequences so they understand; and remember that children have no concept of time under about 7 years old so telling them you have half an hour to get ready will mean nothing to them. Ensure that your rule includes no TV of a morning or at least until they are up, dressed, breakfast, teeth brushed and bag packed – ready to walk out the door. If they are ready early, some TV or computer game is permitted but only after they are ready. Practice this for a few days prior to school commencement so they know the expected routine and you know the time needed to make it on time.
- Separating from the child when they commence school. Mum standing at the gate crying will only tell the child that this school is scary and bad. Parents hugging their child emotionally and telling them how much they will miss their child will make the child sad and anxious. First day, meet the teacher, show your child around, smile and go. Drop off and leave with a smile, perhaps wearing a large dark pair of sunglasses to hide any tears or emotion.
- Label everything – all clothing, bags, lunch box, drink bottle. If the child puts their item down and other children’s items are the same, a child can become distressed thinking the other child has taken their item or its lost. Labelling all items will prevent this and assist the teacher to sort out correct belongings. Place their first name and first letter of surname at least.
How did you start your children’s school journey? Share with us in the comments.