Dear Mama and Dada, who have a little one about to start school,
You blinked, and all of a sudden, your little baby is putting on their school uniform, which looks three sizes too big, and you are helping them to tie their school shoelaces (or pulling across the velcro). How did those five or so years go so quickly?!
From a Mama of 4 little ones who will be joining you at the school gate this year as my last little baby starts school, my heart is with you.
The moment they walk into that classroom carrying that enormous bag, which looks even bigger than they are, it's hard not to feel like time stands still (or, very least, your heart does).
"Have I done enough? Have I taught them what they need to know? Will they make friends? Will they be left out; will they feel lonely? Will they be able to go to the toilet on their own? Will they miss me?"
The answer to these questions from a wise old Mama is yes, yes, they will! I want you to know that they will be ok; in fact, by the end of the year, you are going to witness the most incredible transformation you will ever see.
This year you will see more transformation in your little one than you have seen in their lifetime so far. They will learn to read, and their eyes will be opened up to a whole new world of experiences and friendships. They will learn tricks on the monkey bars and how to add up, and most importantly, they will realise that they are ok without you. I know Mama and Dada that is the hardest pill to swallow of all, but it's important to help your little one realise they have a special place in this world and they are ok in their own company.
I'm not going to lie; that last part is a little hard part, but our role as parents is to be there, to guide and support them and most importantly, show up and love them like mad (and that is all the school readiness they really need), they will find their way, and they will be ok.
Here are my (Christy Hopwood, Co-Founder of Parents You've Got This) tips for starting school.
Tips for starting school
Start a family routine by taking them to school on the first day and take a picture of them in front of your house and school (as well as a family one). It is amazing to see their growth over the years; it truly does go so fast. Do it on the first and last day of every year. (If your little one is anxious, do it after the day has finished on the way home)
Make sure you drop them off confidently with a big cuddle and kiss and tell them where you will collect them from. (They take their inner confidence and feeling of safety from you).
Have a play in the school playground before school so they feel familiar and confident. (It is often easier to enter the classroom first before they get anxious about a big crowd)
After school pickup
Always have food for them at pick up (waiting to eat when they are used to an open pantry is one of the hardest parts of the school transition. A hungry child is an emotional child, so pack snacks they like).
Don't ask them too many questions when you first pick them up (they are tired and no one likes the third degree); perhaps get in the habit of asking three questions at dinner time. What was the best part of the day? What surprised you? What made you laugh? (Try not to ask who they played with, but rather where did you play at recess and lunch - they then normally tell you if they had friends). They start to anticipate these questions and have the answers ready each night.
Have a healthy snack platter of fruit and veggies ready to eat when they get home (they will eat almost anything when they get home, then you don't have to worry too much about dinner - and remember, it's hard to eat things you don't like when you are tired).
What to pack in a school bag?
Make their lunch box easy to open (It is daunting to ask for help). Don't be surprised if their lunch box comes back full (because they want to rush off to play and do not want to stay seated to eat)
Pack a spare pair of clothes and underwear (busy little ones can forget to go to the toilet or get too shy to ask, even a child who has been trained for years can have accidents at school)
Not necessarily for their bag however, get velcro shoes if you can! Children learn to tie shoelaces in year one after they adjust to school.
For the parents
Don't over-schedule extra circular activities in the first term. They will be absolutely exhausted (and so will you).
Set up a separate email account just for school so you don't miss anything, and make sure you download the school app and put the school reception number in your phone.
Make school parent friends (as your little one grows it is good to share sporting drop-offs and have a school friend to remind you about dress-up day).
Always advocate for your child with their teacher (you are their biggest voice, and they need to know you are on their side first and foremost).
Remember, what they tell you isn't always 100% true (I.e., "I played with no one all day! There may have been a moment of loneliness, but generally, it is just a moment, talk to their teacher about how they are going).
Most importantly, remember they will take their lead from you, so try to be positive and tell them about all the amazing things they will experience (then join me around the corner of the school gates out of sight, after dropping off, for a big cry).
They will be ok Mama and Dada (and so will you x)