First Day at School Tips
August is upon us, which means it’s almost time for lots of little ones to make the transition to primary school! It can be scary and emotional time for everyone, I want to help with some reassurance if your kids are due to start soon! It is extremely normal for both parents and children to be upset on the first day, it is a huge transition, physically and emotionally. No matter if your child has been in a nursery for eight hours a day for the last three years, or they’ve done a couple of days term time since they turned three, it is still a huge thing for them starting school. I will admit that I shed a tear, but it is also a really incredible journey that they are about to begin!
If your child is upset when it is time to go in, again, it is really common. I know some parents then go home and worry that they will spend the whole time crying. Reception teachers and staff are a different breed of teacher, and are incredible at dealing with this confusing time. They have lots of tricks up their sleeve to be able to calm and distract them. Most schools will offer shorter days for the first week or so, which makes it a bit easier. If there are any concerns, the school will be in contact.
One thing I think we will always worry about, is whether our child has any friends, or if they’re all alone. Staff will be keeping an eye on all of them and will encourage them to play with others. You may find that their friendship groups change on a day-to-day basis. This is fantastic, and can be helpful over having just one friend. If that friend was to be off one day, they have other options are friends to play with. You can also expect to hear these friends described rather than named. Max would come and tell us about his new ‘friend with the curly hair’. It took time before he found out his name (that was only because I approached his mum and asked her). It also doesn’t matter if 0 or 10 children came from the same nursery or preschool as they did, as they will all be encouraged to play with others.
The majority of children will have been toilet trained for a while before they start school, but the changes can cause a regression. This can be for a number of reasons. It could be because they’re not sure where to go, or are worried to ask, or it could just be that there so engrossed in what they’re doing that they forget, or they’re worried they will miss something that’s happening. Max had a number of accidents over the first few weeks, for a mixture of the above reasons. Staff were fantastic though and they constantly remind them what to do if they need to go. If this does happen often, it may be worth having a chat with the teacher, and packing some spare uniform and pants from home. Reassure them that they’re not in trouble, and remind them of the toilet rules. After the first few weeks, Max stopped having accidents.
Tired and Cranky can be managed!
Reception is a fantastic year for children! There isn’t as much sitting down at tables all day, and the majority of work is done via structured play. Even so, this workload can be mentally draining, and after getting home from school, routine may go out of the window for that first term. We discovered the best way to keep things calm was to allow around one hours down time after we got home. This could be watching a favourite TV show or going on his tablet. Allowing him time to process all that happened during the day helped stop his tiredness from making him so cranky. I like to think of the fizzy pop analogy. If you were to send them to school with a bottle of fizzy pop, every time something happened that made them anxious or put them out of their comfort zone, they could shake the bottle, and at the end of the day when you get home and you’re asking what they’ve been doing all day, you’re opening that bottle in the safe space where they were let off all of that anxiety. By allowing them time to process those things at their own pace, slowly releasing the pressure and making it easier on everyone then. Some schools may send out a weekly letter of what they’ve been up to, or your child may just tell you in their own time, when they’re in the bath, eating their tea or getting into bed. The only thing I now ask is what he’s eaten for lunch. It is a good idea to utilise the school website, they often have class pages where you can see upcoming topics and events and lots of useful information.
Homework very much varies from one school to the next. We found it was mainly tasks we could incorporate into our daily lives like letter recognition and phonics. You will probably have already met your teacher before the summer, but there may be an opportunity in the first few weeks to go into the class room and learn more about the work they will be covering for at least the first term.
What to do if you’re worried..
If you do you have any concerns though, don’t keep them bottled up. The teachers are there to help. There are a few ways you could contact them, and this would all depend on exactly what your concerns are. You could try and speak to the teacher at morning drop-off or again when you collect them. This can seem difficult at times as 30 parents could all be trying to do the same, is also not the most discreet way if the matter is quite personal. Alternatively you could speak to the school office by phone or email and request to pass a message to the teacher, or for the teacher to call you when possible. Some School office staff may have a bad reputation like doctors receptionist, but they are at the heart of the school and have a lot of information if you don’t need specifics from the teacher.
How to get involved
If you want to get more involved with your school, the PTA is a fantastic way to do that they may have a meet and greet in the first few weeks to let you know more about them. There are a lot of fun ways that you can get involved. Ask your school office or check the website for more information.
There may also be opportunities to volunteer by chaperoning swimming lessons, reading in school with other classes and children who require extra help, or other activities. If this is something that you’re interested in, then ask at the school office for any vacancies or help they need.
Meeting other parents!
One of the big things we all worry about is the playground politics of meeting all the parents. Parents were probably as nervous as you are! There will be plenty of opportunities to meet them at the dozens of class birthday parties that will take place over the next year!
So try not to worry, it’s okay if you cry - don’t forget the obligatory photo in front of the door on that first morning.