If there’s anything that I’ve learnt from my kids’ first days of school, it’s to take tissues and avoid wearing mascara – even the waterproof kind. I get emotional for so many reasons – “they’ve grown up so quickly”, “will they be okay?”, “will they have friends in their class?”, “will they be okay during breaktime?”.
The biggest challenge though is to keep it together and not let my stress or anxiety become theirs. Kids are astute, and I know that they can pick up when I’m not feeling my best. So, I generally suck it up and save the tears for the car, and the vocalising of my anxiety for my blog (or Twitter, at times).
If you’re facing your child’s first day back at school, here are some “survival” tips that I’ve picked up from my own experience:
1. Remember that kids are resilient
Sometimes, the first day of school is harder for you than it is for your kids. Children are resilient and generally integrate well into school if most of the conditions are right for them.
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2. Focus on the milestone
Celebrate the milestone and make the start of school something to be excited about, rather than dreaded. Take lots of pictures, and build up the first day of school and the school year as important and celebration-worthy events.
3. Do a test run
If your child is starting school for the first time, or going to a new school, do a test run of their new routine and school by getting them familiar with their classroom, school bag and uniform. Make sure that your child is comfortable with everything – from the weight of their school bag, to the juice box or lunchbox that they might need to open themselves. When my son started Grade R at his new school, he was wearing his new shoes for the first time ever and I wish I had asked him to wear them in a bit. Along with all the changes, he also had to hobble around school with sore feet.
4. Talk about the first day of school
Talk about the first day as much as possible, and discuss what your child can expect on the day and during the school year. Ask how they’re feeling, and if there’s anything they need from you. It’s always positive when your child can communicate honestly, and when they feel heard by you.
5. Communicate with the teacher
The more a teacher knows about your child, the better the settling-in process will be. Communicate any health or emotional issues to the teacher, even if you already put this information down in the forms.
6. Label everything
It might seem like a silly thing to do, but when your child’s uniform and stationery are labelled, they’ll more likely find them if lost, preventing any stress and panic.
7. Read all the notices
Pay attention to any notices or letters from the school and teacher. There will likely be a lot of information communicated, especially in the first weeks, and it will help your child’s integration and organisation if you’re up to speed.
“The more a teacher knows about your child, the better the settling-in process will be.”
Many classes have WhatsApp groups, and while they can get a little tedious, they can be important sources of information and provide reminders. I’ve been reminded of everything from civvies days to book days on our grade’s WhatsApp group, and the moms and dads have been very helpful when it comes to homework that no one has understood!
8. Explain the after-school procedure
When you leave your child, tell them who will be collecting them, and from where, and where they’ll be going afterwards, for example home, a friend, aftercare or an extra-mural activity.
Tanya Kovarsky is a mom of two (Max, 8 and Rebecca, 1.5 years) and works by day in PR and communications, and by night as a blogger on Rattle and Mum. She loves Paris, Jelly Tots, pink things, makeup and sneakers, and running (she can tell her kids that she’s run 11 Comrades and 14 Two Oceans). She also has a personal blog, Dear Max + Rebecca.