Starting school is one of the defining moments of parenthood, but that doesn’t mean it comes without its fair share of tears and tantrums…and that’s just mum! As with any major event, you’ll be much better equipped to cope if you are prepared.
Waving him off at the school gate in his over-sized shirt ironed to within an inch of its life, a tie down to his ankles, and an unscuffed, unscathed pair of school shoes (which, of course, won’t remain pristine for long) can prove an emotional experience for both parties. But feeling fully prepared on the big day can help ease the tears…
Get into the routine
One of the most challenging aspects of the transition into school life is routine. Whether it’s getting him used to spending the entire day at school – as opposed to mornings in nursery – or coercing him out of his summer-holiday slobbery, this can prove a real struggle, and so giving yourself as much practice as possible will really help.
Start setting your new routine a week or two before term begins.
Set a strict bedtime, and waking time, and make sure you both stick to it. Practise your morning routine: having breakfast, packing the school bag, and getting into uniform.
By the time school begins any confusion, tantrums and tears will be well out of the way, and he’ll be ready to enjoy his new adventure.
Aside from the mental preparation that goes into getting through the first day of school, you need to get your child kitted out with all the essentials that school life requires.
Although it’s his first day, the checklist will be the same in the next few years. Uniform is usually the first port-of-call: shirts, trousers, ties – and don’t forget socks – all need purchasing, or replacing if your child’s gone through a growth spurt. School shoes can be the most difficult so consider them early on. Finding some hard-wearing footwear that doesn’t cost the earth will be a challenge that gets rewarded when you don’t have to replace them after just a few months.
If you want him measured for school shoes, then some shops do an appointment system in the holidays as they get inundated with eager mums, particularly the week before schools go back. Be organised and get in early or make that appointment ahead of time.
As well as all the uniform, there are lots of other school accessories that need to be purchased in advance of the big day: school bag, pencil case, pens and pencils, stationery and a lunchbox. And don’t forget sports kit: he’ll need trainers and T-shirts and shorts. Make this a fun part of the school prep – why not dedicate a shopping day to buying these bits and bobs, and let him pick out his favourites, after all, he’s the one that’s going to have to use and carry them all.
‘You’ve heard it before, sharing is caring and it is important for you to teach your children this life skill – it will help them to make friends and enjoy play. Organising a few play dates with some future classmates sets up an informal introduction.’
Check he's ready
Getting your child used to doing things for himself is going to be essential when starting big school.
Make sure he’s happy to go to the toilet alone and clean himself afterwards, and can wash and dry his hands, get dressed and undressed independently for PE class, and eat with cutlery
(even if he does sometimes need assistance). Of course, teachers are on hand to help, but it will make the transition a lot easier if he’s prepared to carry out such activities on his own.
If there’s something he’s a little uncertain about, go through it with him until he feels totally capable; the last thing you need is for your child to be worried on his first day.
Naturally this is going to be an emotional day, and it’s as big an event for you as it is for him. Once you’ve got the physical prep out of the way, tackle the emotional side. Talk through his worries and find out if there is anything in particular that is making him anxious; let him know that you’re proud of him going to ‘big school’ and that it’s going to be a very exciting and fun experience, where he’s going to learn lots of amazing things, and meet nice new friends.
Explain that it’s not for long each day, and be sure to reassure him that there will still be plenty of time for you to spend together each evening as a family – and at the weekends.