Tips to support your child on their first day back at school
If this is your child’s first day back at school after the holidays, it's likely a big day for them and you. Whether it's a new school or just a new year, the first day back is always a milestone. Nerves are high with apprehension about a new teacher or new classmates, or even a whole new school environment.
While part of the challenge of being a parent is learning when to be there and when to let your children spread their wings and be independent. After experiencing 11 years of first days, here are some basic tips I've learned that can help make their first days as stress free as possible.
Preparation is key. Make sure uniform, stationery, devices are all present and correct. Get your child to pack their bag the night before and do a checklist of important items. This is especially important as you may not have the time in the morning to help them in the way you'd ideally like to.
Be positive. If your child is not looking forward to going back to school, empathize the positive aspects of school life. Getting to spend time with their friends again at lunch and morning tea time could be one. A child who was bored over the holidays might be looking forward to getting back to their school activities, like sports or drama. They could be really looking forward to school camp. Be excited and enthusiastic about their learning and new challenges they will have this year.
Take care of the basics. Having a good sleep and good nutrition will help your child cope with the busy year ahead. Bedtimes get pretty casual over the holidays, and sleeping in to make up for a late night can become a pattern. Gradually get bedtimes back to normal before school starts, so it's not such a shock to the system. Pack lunches with nutritious food that will sustain their energy. Refuel as soon as they get home before tackling homework. Pack plenty of water, especially in these hot summer months. Plus hats and sunblocks are a must.
Help kids with time management. Kids and parents live very busy lives these days. It requires a fair bit of planning to juggle school, activities and homework. Kids need to learn this time management skill. If they are starting intermediate or high school ,this could be the first time they are being faced with a timetable. Help them plan for their days ahead and also their time after school. If there are lots of after school activities going on then schedule a free afternoon just for homework.
If it all goes to custard. All these suggestions are great if you can manage them. We all, kids and parents, have to give ourselves a break if things go pear-shaped on occasion. If your child gets to school and something important has been forgotten, for example, it will seem like a big deal to them at the time. At the end of the day everyone will cope. Learning to adapt when things don't go according to plan is an important life skill, if a hard one to learn. We all hate watching our kids go through uncomfortable situations. But we do them no favours by rescuing them constantly.
Be supportive and remember how hard school can be. At the end of the day if things haven't gone well, we can be there for them with a sympathetic ear or a big hug if they need their emotional bucket filled. If we do this, we'll be helping provide the support they need to face the next day. Think back to our own school days and empathize with the challenges ahead to help smooth the way for them. Our family finds the bedtime chat is a great time to encourage the kids to open up and share anything that might be troubling them. They have your undivided attention and are feeling relaxed and have time to process their day. You need to give everyone time to settle in, but it's also important to take kids worries seriously. Look out for signs of bullying, anxiety or problems with teacher-student relationships. There may be cases where your intervention is necessary and your child might not ask for help, but you have to read between the lines.