THE ABCs OF STARTING SCHOOL
THE first day of school, especially the first day ever, can be filled with tears and guilt-ridden apprehension – and that’s just mom!
I tossed and turned in bed, unable to fall asleep, the night before my son’s first day of Grade R. His lunch was packed at the crack of dawn, leaving me enough time to check and double check that everything was ready. Needless to say, I was a bundle of nerves.
For many families January is a mixed bag of emotions.
Parents, broke, but hopefully budgeted for school have had time to bond with their children over the festive break. Elated, exhausted and now entering into another year of their schooling career, both parent and child can surely feel overwhelmed.
Here are a few hurdles you might experience and suggestions for ways in which to cut down on the anxiety and ensure a smooth transition for you and your little one:
I WANT MY MOMMY
The fear factor is inevitable among younger children, who may experience separation anxiety beyond day one.
It helps if the school has taken the time to introduce mom and child to the new teacher and classroom before the big day but if not, you will have to put on a brave face and help ease your child into the idea of a new environment.
Keep calm and go easy on hugs and parting emotions.
Colleen Wilson, co-founder and facilitator of Contemporary Parenting – a training and mentoring business – has a wonderful analogy.
“Children respond to the first day of school much as flowers respond to sunshine.” She says most children will go on to love and embrace these years, while others may recoil and resist this time.
“Separation anxiety is a very normal experience for younger children. It’s helpful to move away from any negative associations with it.
“The gift we can give our children is for us to find our core, our strength, our trust in them and in the environment in which we are placing them in. They feed off our emotions and if we are harbouring doubt, fear or anxiety they will feel this too.
“Validate their feelings intermittently while reminding them they are safe.”
She adds that “another useful tip can be to give something to the child that they can keep in their pocket from you that they can hold every time they feel like they are missing you”.
NPO Safechild. org suggests having a frank conversation the night before – ask your child what their expectations and fears are.
Don’t belittle their feelings, rather encourage them and try to alleviate those fears by making them feel safe.
When it comes to the first day of school, try not to linger too long and make sure the school has procedures in place to ensure a smooth transition.
Make it a positive experience by telling them how much fun they’ll have and all the friends they’ll make. And, if the waterworks start, remain calm and don’t stay any longer than you have to. Say your goodbyes and let them see you leaving.
Children thrive on routine in all aspects of their lives, aim for a regular drop-off ritual to avoid drama.
This can be a special hug, wink or a “see you later, alligator!”
I FORGOT TO EAT MY LUNCH
Forgot to eat my lunch was code for I didn’t want to eat my lunch when I was younger. And there were various reasons.
Tap into what your child enjoys at school by offering a wide variety of nutritious foods and taking note of what they eat and want more of.
“When it comes to nutrition, your child should follow a balanced, varied diet, including fruit, vegetables, protein, fat and complex carbohydrates,” suggests paediatric dietitian Lindsay ArchibaldDurham. These nutrients maintain adequate energy for school, as well as for after-school activities and homework. She also maintains parents should stay away from sugars and refined carbs, “instead choosing wholegrain complex carbohydrates combined with protein and healthy fats”. As a parent, you want to make sure your child is getting their share of vitamins, so the go-to would be giving them an overthe-counter multivitamin. But Archibald-Durham advises against it in most cases. “It’s always better to try and obtain vitamins and minerals via a balanced varied diet consisting of fresh food, as many foods contain other nutrients and valuable components that aren’t always replicated in a supplement. “If your child is a picky eater, a general multivitamin may serve as a safety net to cover missing nutrients and prevent deficiencies.”
Lindsay’s suggestions for lunch box snacks
Mozzarella and tomato sandwiches
Chicken and fruit salad
Meatball or falafel pitas
Ham and cheese pitas
Baked honey-lime drumsticks
Parmesan pita crisps with hummus or guacamole
Guacamole or hummus with veggie sticks or pita strips.
Almond macaroon fingers
Dried fruit; fruit flakes or dried fruit bars/rulers
Apple-crumble squares Fresh fruit
Yoghurt – consider freezing yoghurt tubes which will keep the rest of the lunch cool and keep the yoghurt fresh in the summer heat.
Nuts Home made popcorn
I DIDN’T MEAN TO GET IT DIRTY
I spilt milkshake all over my white shirt, covered it in finger paint or ink or sand.
Buying a school uniform can be costly, and you’ll find yourself replacing shirts and dresses at least twice a year because of growth spurts.
But there are things you can do to ensure longer wear by following these handy tips.
Always read the care label:
It sounds like a “duh” statement, but many don’t read the care label. The moment of clarity only comes when you realise your child’s school shirts have started taking on an offwhite colour.
Use cold water when washing coloured uniforms to help preserve the colour and avoid shrinkage. The only other time you’ll use hot water is to get rid of rough stains and dirt.
No tumble drying:
Instead dry clothing on a clothes line in the shade.
No dirt, no wash:
Your child won’t arrive home with a dirty uniform every day. In these cases, air dry on the line instead of dumping it in the laundry basket.
One outfit for every day of the week:
This way you can save money by reducing the number of times a uniform gets washed. Everydaycleaningtips.com has a handy tip: label shirts and pants/ dresses according to the day of the week.
This helps kids organise their wardrobe and rotate uniforms.
MARCHELLE ABRAHAMS’ definitive guide to that first day
School uniforms can be costly, so care for them correctly.