For children starting primary school for the first time, day one is imminent! Depending on your school, your child might be starting full time straight away, will have some half days to begin with or might have weeks of mornings or afternoon sessions until they eventually go full time. Whichever it is, the first day will come soon enough and we have some tips for coping with day one and beyond.
A Few Days Before
It’s a good idea to get things prepared a few days before school starts to avoid a last minute panic.
- Communication – talk to your child about school and remind them of any settling in sessions they might have had in the summer term, reminding them of what they enjoyed. Perhaps re-visit any story books you have about starting school. Listen to your child and reassure any anxieties they may have.
- Routine – it’s a good idea to start getting your child into a routine that is compatible with school, such as getting to bed a bit earlier. Give yourselves a few days to do this, especially if bedtime routines have been a bit lax in the holidays!
- Uniform – make sure you have all the school uniform sorted and labelled. Ensure your child know where things are labelled so they can find their own clothes.
- Be prepared – make sure you know where and when your child has to be at school on their first day. Each school has a different transition period so make sure you know what yours is – if your child is only in for half a day the first day, make sure your know if it’s the morning or afternoon.
It’s not too late to prepare your child – take a look at our guide on preparing your child for starting school for some other top tips.
The First Day
Don’t panic! Give yourself plenty of time to get everyone ready and get to school on time. Turning up late and stressed on the first day is not going to do anything to calm your or your child’s nerves.
Once at school, settle your child in but don’t hang around for ages, especially if they are upset. It is horrible leaving your child crying but be assured that within minutes they will be happily playing with something or someone. And remember that Reception class teachers are used to dealing with first day tears and are experts at helping children settle in.
Make sure you know what time and where to pick your child up from. If you are not picking them up, make sure they and the teacher know who is. Do your best not to be late to pick them up!
The First Weeks
Often after one day at school young children think they have done school now and so don’t need to go back! The excitement of the first few days has worn off but they are still a bit apprehensive and nervous. Keep talking to your child to make sure they are happy and OK with school and reassure them. Look out for signs that things might not be going well. Build a relationship with the class teacher so you feel happy to approach them with any concerns you may have.
Children’s behaviour at home can change when they first start school – this is quite common and they might be more clingy, excitable, argumentative or particularly prone to tantrums. This is unlikely to last and it’s just a symptom of the change they are going through. The best way to approach this is to support them and keep communicating with them.
It is also likely that your child will be more tired than usual, even if they have been used to going to nursery regularly before starting school. Remember that, even though the school day may be shorter than a full day at nursery, your child is on a steep learning curve and is learning a lot more each day than at nursery or pre-school.
If your child is exhausted at the end of the day, give them some quiet time or even a nap when they get home. Consider keeping after-school activities to a minimum while they settle in and get used to the school routine. Try to ensure the first few weekends of term are quite quiet too so they can have time to recharge their batteries.
And What About You?
It can be difficult to let go and let your child start school, especially if you don’t have fond memories of your own school days. However, always talk positively to your child about school so they feel confident about it – if you are negative about school then this will have an effect on them too.
Try not to get upset in front of your child – if needs be, go off and have a good cry outside the school gates or at home. If this is your only child or your youngest starting school then the house might feel a bit empty, especially if you are a stay-at-home parent. To avoid this try planning some things to do or arrange to meet friends or family, or suggest going for a coffee to some other parents so you can get to know each other. To be honest, by the time the school drop off is done, there aren’t that many hours until it’s time to do the school pick up run! Look at starting school as a new chapter of your life too – consider going back to work, re-training or take the opportunity to do some volunteer work or start a new hobby.
And finally, we found this poem online about starting school written by a parent and the response from a teacher. We thought it sums up how lots of parents are feeling right now and wanted to share it: http://www.netmums.com/home/have-you-seen/a-poem-for-starting-school
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