In light of Mum Network contributor Naomi Higgins writing about her twins starting school on Thursday (see her post HERE), I thought I would write a guide for first time parents who are sending their bubbas off to school this week for the very first time:
A Guide for First Time Parents going to school this week.
- Don’t be anxious. Be proud, be happy and be positive. Your positivity will rub off on your child. Tell your little one it will be great and understand that no matter how upset they are, it’s temporary – about ½ way through term 1 they’re so independent you forget about the early tears. It’s wasted energy when positivity can be much more effective.
- Do your children a favour and DO NOT HANG AROUND THE CLASSROOM LIKE A BAD SMELL. Leaving your child on day 1 is like ripping off a band aid – the longer it takes, the harder it is. Think about that poor teacher who has to deal with 20+ new kindergarten kids who don’t know each other. The faster he or she can take control of the room and make the kids feel secure, the better. You hanging out at the window blubbering and waving is not a helpful way to start day 1. Head off as fast as possible to the tears and tissues sesh with other Mums and make some new friends.
- Every other parent on day 1 is feeling the same as you. Introduce yourselves, they’re all feeling a bit sad too and don’t assume everyone knows each other. Generally we cling to those we know and some people may just be chatting because they know each other vaguely from pre-school. Primary school is often a time where you meet the people who will become your best friends for life. Yes you will always have your own friends from school days whom you love and adore but the network and community you establish now can contribute to life long memories for your kids. Don’t be afraid because amongst that sea of faces you will see on Day 1 there will possibly be a few families you will soon call your besties.
- Buy 2 hats. Always have a spare one in the car. If your school is anything like ours, they have a no hat no play policy and if your kid arrives at school with no hat, the tears are enough to fill a swimming pool. Always be prepared!
- Velcro. Look, no child gets to year 6 without knowing how to tie shoelaces – it’s a skill that comes eventually but if you’re anything like me and you’re running around like a mad woman possessed by the devil most mornings, the last thing you want to do is tie shoelaces. I let the little ones get the velcro school shoes in year one and let them play ‘learning time’ on sports days with shoelaces on sneakers.
- We know it’s exciting to pack a lunch box but they’re only away from you for between 5 and 6 hours with usually two to three opportunities to eat so don’t pack a degustation menu with ‘choices’ – 5 year olds need (and want) to play, not to have to spend their entire lunchtime devouring 4 types of home made wraps.
- I have three kids at school and have guaranteed EVERY SINGLE TIME we have the meetings and subsequent ‘parent/teacher’ interviews in the early part of the year, at least one parent asks that dreaded question “how do you extend gifted children?”. Yes, yes we all think at some stage that we have a gifted child. When my eldest was 14 months old one of my mothers group Mum’s called me and said she walked into childcare and witnessed my gifted 14 month old ask specifically for ‘the yellow bib please’ – he was still in the babies room at the time. He is now nine years old and his apparent giftedness has well and truly left the building. These days I’m delighted if he can add up the $20 note and $10 note in my wallet. All kids develop at different times but do you REALLY want a gifted 5 year old? Hold off on the gifted rubbish and just aim for well adjusted, social kids who have the ability to sit still, learn and not punch anyone in the process. You’re best to peak on the gifted side of things when the kid is about oh…..16. Don’t burn them out yet.
- Don’t be a pain in the arse. I mean it. Teachers have got THE HARDEST JOB IN THE WORLD and they’re paid peanuts yet they are so influential on our children’s future. If you give a teacher a hard time, drain their precious time on pointless issues because your little Johnny needs more attention than the other kids, your child will likely NOT get the special attention you are looking for. Trust me. Teachers can’t stand pain in the arse parents and little Johnny will be the only one to suffer.
- On the flip side to the above. Show interest. Be involved and let your teacher know you care. There are ways to do this but if you see your child progressing well, always ensure to thank the teacher. It is afterall, a lot to do with their teaching methods. Teaching is a joint effort. The effort you put in at home will reflect upon the results you see at school and visa versa.
- Oh yes, little Johnny has allergies or asthma and you’re going to be at home for weeks on end having conniptions. I completely understand the fear as I’ve only just worked out that I too have one of these kids. However, do not lose your shit. Schools, Principals and teachers are trained in these issues, they are taken VERY seriously and the odds are that your little Johnny isn’t the only kid on campus with a serious health issue. Handle medical situations with serious intent and educate your teacher on the issues but also teach your child some independence as they’re entering the big bad world now and can’t always be protected by Mum or Dad. We are teaching our 3 year old how to recognise the tingle on his tongue with certain foods as well as when to ask for his ventolin as we understand that teachers can’t always just be looking out for our little one. It’s amazing how responsible kids can be when you give them some trust.
- Practise writing their name and recognising their name. This is SO important. Why? Because how will they know their lunchbox, hat, crayons, desk, writing book if they don’t know how to recognise their name. It’s a small life skill but a good one to start with.
- Do not EVER get involved with school yard tiffs unless it’s a serious bullying issue. Kids have to learn to stand up for themselves but also to deal with issues alone. I was talking to a Principal on the weekend who put it so well, he said “Some parents come in and want to move all the desks so that the child can walk straight to their own desk with no bumps in the road but life isn’t like that, kids have to find their own way” – Put simply, girls will be bitchy and boys will be nugget heads but what will your involvement do to settle the situation. Just think about it long and hard before you speak as often the school yard tiff is over before you’ve had a chance to go off.
- Be involved with your school community – it’s incredible how rewarding it is for you and your child. Everyone is busy and no one has time but it’s amazing how those with the least amount of time seem to give the most. If you make the time for your child’s school and put aside one term, one year even one week to be involved with reading groups, tuckshop, mothers day stalls, fun fairs how much you and your child get out of it. I ran our school’s Fun Fair last year and one Mum from kindergarten who knew no one, volunteered to assist in running a couple of stalls. All her fellow kindy Mums now can’t believe how big her network of friends is because of that one gesture. We loved her for it and all our kids were so incredibly grateful that their parents put aside the time to help at school.
Above all, enjoy it, these are the BEST days of your life xxx