THE ABCs OF START­ING SCHOOL

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

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

Tuna salad

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.

Cold wash:

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

PIC­TURE: OUPA MOKOENA

School uni­forms can be costly, so care for them cor­rectly.

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