It’s the time of year when many parents are coming to terms with their child starting Big Kiddy School: a significant life chapter of milestones, friendships, ever-growing limbs – and stinky lunch boxes. But while pencils may be sharpened and uniforms labelled, school preparedness also involves considering other factors and potential issues that school life can bring.
1. The differences between early-childhood education centres and school
Kids are encouraged to be more independent at school; they will have to pack their own bags, respond to bells and organise their work themselves. This can be a shock to the system for kids who are used to many things being done for them, so ensure your child is aware that there will be changes – and no more sleepy-time on mats!
2. Safety: before, during and after school
The days of signing them in and out each day could well be over, so setting designated drop-off and pick-up points helps kids know where to find you – outside the classroom is a good spot in the early days. Also, ensure your child understands that they are never to leave the school grounds without mum or dad with them.
3. The possibility of bullying
Bullying takes many forms, and a lot of kids do it without even realising. Many schools now have a no-bullying policy, so it’s worth chatting to your little ones about what bullying means, the ways that it is harmful, and what to do if it happens.
4. Separation anxiety
This can be tough for kids who are used to spending a lot of time at home – and also for at-home mums who have to relinquish their little buddies (insert sob here). Helping kids to know what to expect can help them, as will making new friends, and becoming familiar with their teacher and the school grounds.
5. Friendship battles
Kids can be fickle. Who they can’t live without one day may become their arch-nemesis the next. Be prepared for many ups and downs in the mates’ department, and help your kids understand that, while it seems like the end of the world, it’s normal for friends to have disagreements sometimes.
6. Off-the-charts hunger
Count on it, your Monday shop will be gone by Wednesday. Growing school kids use a huge amount of energy every day and need plenty of sustaining, nutritious food to fuel their days. Sometimes kids might not eat much at school because they are too busy playing, resulting in a furious hunger when they get home. So, stock up!
7. Extra fatigue
School can be exhausting for kids, so expect them to drag their feet, hurl some attitude around and not want to get up in the morning. Sticking to good bedtimes and keeping after-school time relaxed can help them get the extra rest they need.
8. Extra-curricular activities: how many and when?
Are kids too tired after school for swimming or ballet? Is it best to schedule these for the weekend? Also bear in mind kids can change their minds about what they want to do once they get settled and make new friends at school, so it can be good to hold off committing to too many activities at once.
Here’s wishing all our budding students and emotional mums a fantastic start to the school year – lost hats, cheese sandwiches and all. (And YES, it is totally OK for mums to bawl at day one drop-off – just not until they’re in the confines of the car. Windows up!)