My sixth child is start­ing school. Here’s what I’ve learned

Five tips to help to make an emo­tional day a lit­tle less fraught for you and your child

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Lifestyle - Jen Ho­gan

My sixth child is about to start school, and I can’t quite be­lieve it. Start­ing school is a mile­stone for chil­dren, but it’s a mile­stone for us par­ents too.

I know the sight of my five-year-old in his uni­form is likely to send my tear ducts into over­drive. Whether his own tear ducts are put to the test will likely only be­come ap­par­ent on the day. At the mo­ment his main point of fo­cus is the Spi­derman ninja moves he plans on show­ing to his “boy teacher”, as he calls him. So long as he “shows” rather than “tests out on” I re­mind him con­stantly in the build-up.

But be­hind the su­per­hero bravado, I know he has some nerves too. And it’s up to me to help him with those.

Prac­tice makes per­fect they say and teaches you a thing or two about how to smooth the tran­si­tion.

1. No mys­ter­ies

Fa­mil­iar­ity is likely to be the first cause of con­cern. “What’s my class­room like? Is my teacher nice? Where are the toi­lets? Do we get jel­lies on Fri­day?” are just some of the ques­tions that may need an­swer­ing, whether they’ve been asked out loud or not.

Tak­ing a stroll or drive to the school a few times be­fore D-Day can re­ally help in this re­spect. It’s also the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to re­mind your about-to-start schooler of the fun times that lie ahead and, if they’ve been lucky enough to meet them in ad­vance, the lovely teacher they have. There may or may not have been an op­por­tu­nity to show your lit­tle one where the toi­lets are be­fore the first day, but ei­ther way a re­minder of their lo­ca­tion on the day is im­por­tant – as is a re­minder not to be afraid to use them. Rest as­sured, how­ever, if an ac­ci­dent hap­pens, as it can eas­ily do, es­pe­cially dur­ing a time when so much is new, the teacher will deal with it quickly and dis­creetly with min­i­mum up­set for your child.

2. Self-help

Help your child to help them­selves; lunch­boxes, coats, beakers, shoes and bags all fall un­der this one. If, like my son, your child is likely to be in a class of su­per­hero, Poké­mon or uni­corn fa­nat­ics then there’s a good chance he/she will not be the only one with a par­tic­u­lar school­bag. A dis­tinc­tive keyring at­tached to the zip or han­dle can make it eas­ier for your child to im­me­di­ately iden­tify it. Like­wise with coats – a brightly coloured but­ton at­tached to the hood or sleeve can re­ally help.

Prac­tice open­ing and clos­ing lunch­boxes and beakers at home in ad­vance. Un­peel and wrap or­anges and teach your child how to open a ba­nana – teacher won’t have time to do 30. Con­sider also pro­vid­ing some way to dis­pose of their rub­bish (such as a small scented nappy bag) as they may not be al­lowed to do so in school. The smell of a rot­ten fruit core or yo­ghurt car­ton, left over from lit­tle break, can put them off their lunch.

When it comes to shoes, go vel­cro all the way. It makes life eas­ier for them at school (and you in the morn­ing rush).

3. Mak­ing friends

It’s a real com­fort if your child has

friends who will be in the same class as him/her but even if they don’t, this can eas­ily be put to right. Take the bull by the horns and be the par­ent who or­gan­ises the class con­tact list.

A sim­ple note ex­plain­ing your plans and ask­ing par­ents to for­ward their child’s name and con­tact de­tails to you, turns you quickly into the par­ent every­one “knows”. And as the de­tails come in, the play­date or­gan­is­ing can be­gin.

4. Get a rou­tine go­ing

Don’t wait un­til the night be­fore. Move bed­times back as soon as pos­si­ble and keep a steady bed­time rou­tine. School is ex­haust­ing for small chil­dren in a very dif­fer­ent way to Montes­sori and tired­ness will just make them feel more over­whelmed.

Lay clothes and shoes out the night be­fore and use the re­main­ing sum­mer mornings to get your child back into the habit of get­ting dressed first thing. En­cour­age in­de­pen­dent dress­ing as much as you can – it can be a life­saver as the weeks progress and the nov­elty wears off.

5. The first morn­ing

Al­low plenty of time for break­fast, top but­ton and tie ob­jec­tions, and travel. Traf­fic around the school is usu­ally chaotic on the first day, as many more par­ents de­cide to bring their chil­dren to school them­selves af­ter the sum­mer break.

Keep the chat pos­i­tive but if they’re ner­vous don’t dis­miss their concerns, no mat­ter how ap­par­ently triv­ial. See it as an op­por­tu­nity to put a fi­nal pos­i­tive spin on things be­fore they go in.

Bring tis­sues. Even if it takes su­per­hero re­straint how­ever, don’t shed any tears un­til you’re out of sight – chil­dren of­ten take their cues from their par­ents. And af­ter all, with great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Be­hind the su­per­hero bravado, I know he has some nerves too. And it’s up to me to help him with those

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ISTOCK/GETTY

Bring tis­sues but don’t shed any tears un­til you’re out of sight. Kids of­ten takes their cues from their par­ents.

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