If you have a little one starting school this year, congratulations – you have a big year ahead! The first day of school is a huge milestone in a child’s life. And it’s pretty huge in a parent’s life too. Some might say even more so.
Perhaps you’re feeling excited. Or maybe you feel a little anxious or apprehensive. Most likely you’re a mixed bag of excited, nervous, emotional, ready and not ready. All perfectly normal!!
Acknowledging your little one is not so little anymore and preparing for school is overwhelming and awesome and sad and good all at the same time. School life represents greater independence, exciting discoveries, rich learning experiences and significant emotional and social development. It’s big, very big!
I remember holding back tears when my eldest daughter, Miss A, had her last day of kinder. For me, it signified the end of a wonderful chapter in our lives. I worried that I would miss her terribly. In the lead up to her first day I felt a mixture of pride, nostalgia, excited and reflective.
But on the morning of her first day of school, I mostly felt immense pride. I was so happy for my little girl. I embraced the milestone and matched her enthusiasm. I am about to experience it all over again as my second-born daughter, Miss J, prepares to walk through the school gates for the first time as a big school girl.
Whenever I feel I need a little extra guidance with raising children, I turn to the Raising Children Network website. Full of practical tips and support, their school readiness section covers everything to help your little one feel ready for starting school.
Some of the raisingchildren.net.au tips that caught my eye include:
Getting familiar with school
- Meet your child’s teacher together and give your child an idea of how many children will be in the class. Let your child know that teachers are there to help, and she can ask for help any time.
- Explain the basic school rules, such as putting up your hand, asking before going to the toilet, listening quietly when you need to, and doing what the teacher asks.
Practical preparations at home
- Get your child to try on the uniform and shoes before the first day, just to make sure everything fits.
- Have a practice run with the lunch box to make sure your child can take off the lid (perhaps before buying the box).
- Give your child lots of love and support. Be excited and enthusiastic about your child starting school. This sends your child the positive message that school is exciting and that he’ll cope and have fun.
- Read a children’s book about starting school with your child – ask the librarian at your local library for book ideas. Reading books about school together can help you talk with your child about her feelings.
Some further advice from my own personal experience:
- Have fun with a little “role-playing” at home. My girls love playing schools almost as much as they love playing mums and dads.
- Let your child wear the school uniform a few times before school starts. Miss J would wear her uniform every day if I let her. Instead she wears her school headband with pride every day. Oh, and make sure they wear their shoes are polished and worn in before Day One.
- Ensure you have bought a lunchbox, snack containers and a drink bottle. The choice is utterly overwhelming. I have found the Smash Food containers are a great option and high quality. Have a practice run with the lunch box to make sure your child can take off the lid (perhaps before buying the box). You can visit this post for my review.
- Labels, labels, labels. Ensure you label everything – the containers, drink bottles, clothes, shoes, the works. You’ll need iron on labels for clothing. Again, there is a ridiculous supply on the market for lables. Personally, there are so many other expenses in life I just go with cheap and cheerful.
- Finally, you might want to get your child’s eyes tested if they have not already had this done. It’s so important to do this before they start learning to read. I was lucky that a random eye test at kinder alerted me to a problem in Miss J’s left eye. We had her tested recently and it turns out she needed glasses. This could (partly) explain why she appears so clumsy. The poor child couldn’t see properly out of one eye!
Let’s not forget about how you’re feeling in the lead up to this big day! Here are my top tips for parents:
Tissues: You will need to have a box of tissues at the ready. Even if you’re not feeling sad about this day, you may be surprised at how emotional you feel when the time comes to say goodbye to your child and walk away. Public displays of emotion are totally acceptable in this instance so be careful about wearing mascara!
Champagne: OK, so it might be too early for some to pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly at 9.o’clock in the morning but have a bottle in the fridge and toast with some girlfriends after school pick up, or with your hubby later in the evening. If champagne is not your thing, cook your child’s favourite dinner, make a fuss as a family and remember it’s your big moment, too.
Camera: Preserve the moment but be sure to enjoy it too. Naturally you want to capture the big day but you also want to be present with your little one so I suggest taking a heap of pics before school and a couple at the school gate and in the classroom. You will most likely be able to linger in the classroom while your child gets settled so ensure you are fully engaged with them.
Starting school: the early weeks
Your child is likely to need a lot of support when school starts. There are some simple things you can do to help these first few weeks go smoothly. For more information on the early weeks of school, visit www.raisingchildren.net.au. And remember that this site will have you covered for all stages of parenthood from pregnancy to newborns to teens.
I don’t think I ever anticipated just how big a milestone starting school truly was until I experienced it last year. And this year I get to experience it all over again. Miss J is excited, ready and curious. I know I will be emotional, but mostly I am so excited for her. And proud, oh-so very proud!
Congratulations! You are about to embark on an exciting journey. This year will be a big one, and you are ready!
Please leave a comment below and tell me how you’re feeling about the big day. And if you’ve been through this before, pleased leave your tips on how to prepare for school.