The summer holidays are nearly over and it’s time to contemplate sending your children back to school. The last few days of the holidays are a good time to prepare for the coming term: children respond well to routines and rituals and feel much more comfortable when they know what to expect. Here are some constructive ways in which you can prepare for the start of the school year:
•Work on a good sleeping routine
The holidays will inevitably have been disruptive – children will have had sleepovers, gone to stay with relatives, gone on holiday, or simply been allowed to stay up late. Now is the time to ensure that they’re well rested and have plenty of energy for the weeks ahead, so start to introduce a sensible weekday bedtime and reinstate relaxing bedtime rituals, like baths, book-reading and storytelling.
•Get meals back on track
Much like disrupted sleeping, holidays can be murderous when it comes to healthy eating. Children are given endless snacks and treats, there are lots of meals out, regular mealtimes are disrupted by holiday activities. Now is the time to get your child back into a sensible eating routine. Agree on a healthy breakfast and ensure that they get up early enough to enjoy it and try to provide a regular evening meal at the same time each evening. If your child has a packed lunch, think about ways in which you can smuggle healthy options into the lunchbox, so that you don’t fall back on sugar-filled snacks.
•Get everything ready
Most children enjoy acquiring items for their new school year, such as pencil cases, school bags and lunch boxes. You will probably also have to buy new items of school uniform for fast-growing children. Encourage young children to try on the uniform so they do not get anxious about awkward buttons and zips. Getting all these items in the days before the school term starts is a good way of introducing the reality of the new school term to your child.
•Talk to your child
In the few days before school begins, talk to your child about the upcoming term. Ask them what they’re looking forward to and try to find out what is worrying them, if anything. Reassure them that you’ll be on hand and that it’s your job to make sure their school life is successful and fulfilling.
It’s quite possible that schoolfriends have not been around much during the summer holidays and now is the time to get in contact with their parents and suggest a play date. If they see each other before the term starts, they will be able to rejuvenate their friendship and your child will be reassured by their presence at school.
•Reassure anxious children
Sometimes children experience real anxiety in the run-up to school, so it can be a good idea to walk them past the school building, talk to them about the morning routine, explain how drop-offs and pick-ups will work. It will help them to know that you’ve got it all under control.
•Prepare the night before
It really helps allay children’s anxiety if you prepare everything the night before, especially on the first day of term. That means getting the school uniform ready, packing the school bag, assembling lunch boxes. Even laying the table for breakfast is a reassuring sight.
•Manage your own anxiety
Sending children off to school (especially for the first time) is an important rite of passage for most parents. Gradually easing them into independence is the goal, but it is all too easy to be smothering and over-anxious. Work hard at appearing robust and positive and don’t make too much of a fuss about what a big step your child is undertaking – this will stir up emotions (both yours and your child’s), whereas what you really need to do is to normalise the whole experience so that they take it in their stride.
• Turn up for regular meetings with the teacher. Pleading that you’re ‘too busy’ to discuss your child’s progress will be a real black mark against you.
• Always respond to any requests that come from the school, and promptly (double-check that you’re on any relevant WhatsApp groups for your child’s class and look out for emails from the school).
• Always turn up for end of term concerts, school plays, carol services etc. Your child will care desperately if you don’t attend.
• Give a little time to the school – it may be manning a stall at the school fete, putting together a newsletter in the evenings, or helping out on a school trip.
•Try your best to answer all appeals for help from the school - be it for cash contributions, food for the harvest festival, old clothes for school plays, gifts for a sister school in Africa.
•Never storm into the school at the end of the day and berate your child’s teacher. If you have a concern, always make an appointment.
•Never embarrass your child in front of his/her fellow pupils or teacher. Behaviour that is acceptable in the privacy of your own home may be absolutely mortifying in a school context.
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