DROPPING your kids off at school for the first time is a hard day for any parent – but being prepared can make the whole thing easier.
Kirsty Ketley is a mum-of-two, Parent Consultant and Early Years/parenting expert, with over 20 years experience working with families.
Here the 40-year-old, from Surrey, who’s mum to Ella, eight, and Leo, four, reveals how to prepare your kids for back-to-school – and the well-meaning habits which do more harm than good…
Next week, my youngest starts school for the first time and I am feeling a tad emotional about it, as he is my last one.
But with my twenty plus year career working in childcare and now as a parent consultant, I have some ‘insider knowledge’ of what to expect.
And by that I mean what to really expect during the first term. Because, for a lot of parents, there are some unexpected surprises.
The first thing I can tell you is your child will be tired. When I say tired, I mean so knackered that if they have made it through the school day without catching some zzz’s, they will be falling asleep in their tea.
This new level of tiredness can be a shock, you might find that your child suddenly asks to go to bed instead of resisting their bedtime. But it will get better – usually by Half Term.
My advice would be to keep out of school activities to a minimum until the October break. Parents often accept too many play dates or plan too much over the weekend, which really doesn’t help.
You may actually need to bring bedtime forward. Some parents worry their kids will be up at the crack of dawn if they do this but they won’t, they just need some extra sleep.
Emotions can be all over the place with a four or five-year-old at the best of times. But couple that with the extra tiredness, and it can be a Lottery as to whether they’ll be happy or sad from day-to-day.
A long goodbye or telling your kid you’ll miss them too will only make it harder for the child. I’ve known parents to show their upset at the classroom door, which will only make things worse
The return to school can also breed separation anxiety. Some kids have this from the start but, for others, it can be delayed.
So you might wave your kids off to school on the first day without any issues. But when tiredness and reality kicks in, this could change.
My advice – be consistent with their routine, praise them for being brave and don’t hang about at drop off.
A long goodbye or telling your kid you’ll miss them too, although well meaning, will only make it harder for the child and prolong the settling in process. I’ve known parents to show their upset at the classroom door, which will only make things worse. It’s best to save your tears for when you’re out of sight.
Kirsty’s tips for dos and don’ts
Tell your kids you’ll miss them too or show emotion at drop off – you’ll only make them more upset
Bombard your kids with questions on the drive home
Make too many weekend plans, your kids are knackered
Get a digital timer to count them out the door in the morning
Put them to bed earlier
Pack lunches and get uniforms and bags ready the night before
Be consistent with their routine
Getting out the door on time is a challenge with young kids, so it’s best to have your school bags packed the night before, lunches made and uniforms lined out ready.
My absolute winner for school mornings is a digital timer to count them down. We use our Amazon Alexa, but you can use your phone or pick up a cheap alternative. It saves Mum having the nag the kids – but gets the same results.
At times, it may feel like your child’s regressing, think meltdowns, forgetting to use the toilet and being unable to get themselves dressed.
But don’t worry, this is all completely normal. Once they’re used to the new routine, this will stop and you may face a new barrier – sassiness.
To deal with this, keep your boundaries consistent and be realistic with your expectations of them.
My absolute winner for school mornings is a digital timer to count them down. We use our Amazon Alexa. It saves Mum having the nag the kids – but gets the same results
Sometimes parents put too much expectation on their child’s shoulders and don’t see things from their point of view. Starting school is a big deal, so empathy is key.
After school, you will want to know how their day has gone but don’t bombard your child with questions – this is a mistake and you’ll only be told they “can’t remember”. My advice is to wait for them to tell you. I usually find my own children open up at teatime or at bedtime.
Of course, like with everything parenting, all kids are different. Like me, you may be feeling emotional about it. You will see your little one growing up but, while you will miss what has gone before, I can guarantee there’s some great things to come.
You can find out more about Kirsty’s services here: https://linktr.ee/AuntieKparentconsultant