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Starting School

Starting School

By Becky – Teddycation

Starting school is a big milestone. It signifies a new chapter of independence and learning for your child! It is an exciting stage in your child’s development.

As a teacher of 17 years you’d have thought I’d know the ropes when my twins started school in 2016, but being on the other side of the school gate looking in, gave me a new found empathy for mums and dads waving their children off to embark on their first day at school.

Before children, I could never understand when parents would stand weeping as they watched the classroom doors close behind their child. Phrases like ‘pull yourself together, you’re upsetting your child!’ would run through my brain. Looking back those thoughts seem so harsh now as a parent. I think I had more anxiety about my children starting school than they did – my little boy had found starting nursery hard and I was worried how he would cope especially on the first day. The knot in my stomach was there as the first day loomed but I needn’t have worried, both children skipped into school and didn’t even look back.

Sometimes as adults our anxieties are bigger (perhaps due to our own experiences) than our own children’s and I have learnt you need to be careful not to impart this on them. I was then ‘that’ parent at the school gates sobbing. I think it hit me, the realisation the time we had spent together for the first 4 years of their life was so precious and that my children were growing up – I finally knew how those parents felt and on reflection there is nothing wrong in feeling that way!!

I wanted to use my experiences as a teacher and a mum to help other parents prepare their children for school and I took the leap of faith and started my own business – Teddy-cation, a pre-school class in Warwickshire for 2.5-4yr olds. The class is fun and interactive and gives parents and children skills to prepare them for their future life of learning. With September looming, I have put together a few tips on how to help your child in the days before school begins, on the first day and as they settle into their new routine: (don’t panic if they can’t do all of this, schools will be supportive, – additionally you might need to adapt some of the preparation to your child’s nature and how they feel about starting school)

Preparation

Involvement

Involve your child in the decision making process, get them excited about starting school and in the process make them aware of what their clothes, lunch box and labels look like so that they can identify them as their own. Label everything! Make sure they can recognise their own name, even if they are unable to fully write it yet!

Hygiene and Social Skills

Aim for your child to be able to go to the toilet independently and be confident enough to let the teacher know their needs. They also need to be able to wash their hands properly, and be able to dress themselves – practise buttons, zips, pulling clothes over the head etc. Do a trial run with P.E. kits, school clothes and shoes.

Know Your School

Take a walk to the school and show them the building when it is empty, point out the playground, gates, school entrance and where they will go on the first day. Talk about children they may already know there.

First Day

Preparation

Get everything ready for school the night before; make the morning enjoyable rather than a rush. Take a photo as a first day keepsake. Ultimately, it is your decision whether you share the image on social media but think about safe guarding, cover up the school logo and I wouldn’t advise taking a photo in front of the school gates with the school name behind it.

Separation Anxiety

Reassure your child that you will be picking them up in a few hours and look forward to hearing how their day has gone. Try not to have prolonged goodbyes; this will make it harder for the both of you. Although it might be hard to deal with, try not to let them see you are upset. I warn you that you will probably feel awful for the rest of the day but if your child does cry bear in mind they will usually stop crying within minutes as soon as you have left and they will have a great day.

Home time

Make sure you are not late; this will only heighten anxiety if you are not there. Spend some quality time talking about the day. Children don’t always respond to ‘what did you do today?’ Try to think of how to phrase different questions to provoke a response – What made you laugh today? What did you like most about your teacher? Etc.

Settling in

Plenty of rest

Stick to bedtime routines, you don’t want them to be tired as it is a huge change to their little lives. Be prepared for tears or even tantrums, this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong, they may just need a reassuring cuddle.

Being Prepared

Get into the habit (easier said than done!) of being organised the night before, morning routines can be very stressful particularly when little people have no sense of urgency!!

Playdates

Arrange small group play dates at the park, it is a non stressful setting and you can see how the children interact with one another and how friendships start to form. It also helps develop social skills.

Don’t forget the school will be as keen as you are for your child to settle in happily, and they have years of experience – it is only a first for you!

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