15 TOP TIPS for parents coping with Back to School changes
15 TOP TIPS ON: HOW TO COPE WITH
BACK TO SCHOOL CHANGES
Is your little one starting Daycare, Kindy or School for the first time this year? Is this the first time you are embarking on this new change in routine also?
Well, today I am going to provide a quick list of tips that hopefully you will find helpful in your family while settling into this new and very special time of your lives. There are many many more I’m sure you’ll work out along the way as well, but this is some starters to help…
1. Ensure you are well prepared well ahead of time.
Have all requirements lists printed off and tick off when you have what you need. If you aren’t sure of anything, ask friends or family, or contact the school/centre ahead of time to check. Don’t leave it to the last weekend before you start because seasoned parents know to get out and buy all requirements weeks if not months before and often supermarkets and Newsagents sell out in some products. Avoid the stress and shop early (or some companies allow you to submit your list online and they'll put it together for you and deliver to your door!). Likewise, if you are starting Daycare or Kindy, you may need to sew or buy a Kindy Sheet Set (usually sheet attached to fitted undershoot and a little pillow inside a drawstring bag for nap time) so get organised for this early, or ask someone to help you out early. Other items depending on the venue, may be an art smock, library bag, chair cover. Get these things all organised well in advance to avoid stress last minute.
2. Do a drive by ahead of time.
Get your child used to the route you will take and when. Even drive in and get used to the parking area, one way streets etc.. if they apply. Where will you park or where will they get the bus from? I’d recommend planning to arrive nice and early - especially in the first week or two, as everyone is super keen in those first weeks and carparks are sooo much busier. The last thing you need is to arrive late because you couldn’t get a park on the first day. Oh! And be sure to allow plenty of time before you leave on that first day, to take a couple of photos of your little one all dressed up in their uniform with backpack and shoes on looking super cute! If you won't have much time that day, you could do it the day before, or when they come home that afternoon. They do look much fresher in the morning though! ;)
3. Label EVERYTHING!
It’s a great idea to invest in a Dymo Labeller or similar if you don’t like writing names over and over. Or alternately a good Stanley knife, to help carve pencils and write names on with Nikko Pens. Other popular options include buying bulk lots of sticker labels online (or even some of the supermarkets allow you to pre-order personalised items now). Not all sticker labels are created equal though. Different sizes work better for different items. Also some are made specifically for sticking well to shoes, iron on fabric labels for staying on clothes, heavy duty ones that are ok for lunchboxes going through the dishwasher etc.. You may think your child won’t lose much… but I can guarantee they will even if they are very careful. Bag racks are crazy places, as are playgrounds and there will be plenty of similar items that are easy to accidentally pick up and take home the wrong one. If labelled well, at least they may make their way back to the Lost Property Box or to you.
4. Leading up to the big day, start speaking about the exciting things they will do.
Look at the School or Centre’s website photos together. Take a visit to meet the teacher/carer before you start at the ‘Open Day’ or ‘Orientation Day’. Story books help too in getting them ready and easing any anxiety. There are also great educational ‘Getting Ready for School’ type activity books and flash card sets that could help them feel more ready and confident for the type of activities they may experience in their first year.
5. Invest in a good sun safe hat and natural sun cream, brushes, hair things, clips, plenty of socks (I like to make them all the same so it is easier to find a matching look a like pair as socks disappear all the time in our household!)
6. Purchase a lunch box that is high quality and will last longer, as well as keep lunches cool in hot weather. There are many insulated options available or those with cool packs to pop in. Ensure it is easy for little hands to manage the clips and lids etc.. and is an ample size. I like to have a separate smaller container also to keep Fruit/Vege snack in as teachers normally ask them to place on their desk in the morning.This way, other children aren’t touching an apple or poking a banana with their pens or coughing all over them, pushing them onto the dirty floor etc.. Some parents like to get up earlier than the kids and prepare lunches the morning of… others (like myself) prefer to prepare the night before and pop in the fridge. Or if you are super organised, you can even prepare in bulk each weekend when you have the time and freeze portions of sandwiches, slices, quiche, muffins etc.. to bring out in the morning and take the stress off each day. Find what works best for you and your family.
7. Look for BPA Free Drink Bottles that will be easy to clean and have a good spout to suit the age of your child.
I find the ones with straws quickly fill up with mould inside the straw if they can’t be cleaned properly and pulled apart properly. Stainless Steel ones (like our Montii Co. ones, My Family and Cheeki bottles) offer great longevity and keep water cool throughout the day. Dishwasher friendly ones are also best for convenience. Glass ones are not a good option travelling to and from school.
8. Try on school uniforms a week or two before school starts… as if you try on too early, they may have a growth spurt… and if you wait until that morning, they may be too small or too big. Likewise, check shoes, being worn with the socks they will wear and get them to wear them in a bit at home so they soften a little to avoid blisters on the first day!
9. Ensure you and your children get a good rest in the days and nights leading up to school/daycare changes starting. Calming Essential Oils in an oil diffuser can help or a couple of drops in a warm bath at night, or on a small cloth to pop in their pocket for them to take out and breathe in any time they feel worried or overwhelmed. Not only is the School/Daycare/Kindy routine exhausting for most young children starting out, with all the new experiences, but it is also exhausting for the parents too! You will take a while to get used to the new routine and those first few days can be an inundation of information, procedures, extra things to organise and take in, lots of new people to meet and things to remember. Try and keep things calm and organised.
10. Have Fun! Some fun ideas for lunches are using little Sandwich Cutters for fun shapes, Bento Boxes with sections for different snacks to make things more exciting, Lunch Mail Notes, Nikko drawings or special messages written on bananas, using eco friendly re-usable food wraps, pockets or bags such as KEEP LEAF, FLUF, MUNCH to save money and the Earth.
11. If your child is very uneasy about the ‘departure’ each day, you could try having a special item such as ‘Brave Beads’ bracelet to wear or have in bag pocket, or a soft toy to take with them to daycare to carry around for a visit. Find an activity they love doing when you get there and give them plenty of notice that you are going to choose a special activity to do together for 2 minutes or 5 minutes (or however long suits) so they are looking forward to it, then after that time, have a big cuddle and say goodbye - then follow through without going back. Say it is time to go and you will be back at the end of their time there. If they get upset, remain calm and smiling and tell them you love them and ‘See you Soon’. Allow them to watch from a special place inside (e.g. window or through the fence gap) to keep waving as you go, maybe with one of the staff they feel settled with. I found this helped my little ones as a routine to help them ‘un-attach’ from my clothing!
Know that with some children they have no worries with parents leaving (and the parents may be more upset) or others may take days, weeks or even months to ease the tears. Just know that even if they do cry and look extremely distressed, more often than not, it is only for the initial 5 minutes or so before they start enjoying themselves again. If you are concerned, give the centre or school a call or email a bit later in the day to check. Some lovely staff may even send you a photo to ease your worries. It does get easier eventually. Some sooner than others.Keep in mind, that for some children - even when they are not new to schooling or daycare, in a new year or new term they may seem to ‘regress’ with the separation and saying good-bye times all over again. This is normal for many children and should settle after a little while.
12. Get yourself organised too!
Even from the first day, you are likely to have a bombardment of notes home, emails in the inbox and lists of dates and things you’ll need in the following days, weeks, months. My recommendation is to get home and as soon as you can, start marking these in your diary, calendar or device to ensure you don’t forget. To avoid forgetting to do something from an important school email, mark it as ‘unread’ , pin or flag it in your inbox until you are able to action it. Otherwise, print it out and pop onto your fridge or noticeboard. Fill in any forms that need filling in and return them as soon as you can to avoid them becoming misplaced or missing the due dates. Keep spare coins around the home for special things at school like fundraisers, tuck shop purchases, gold donations etc.. that come up during the school year.
13. When you pick them up at the end of their day, be sure to try and arrive a little early, especially while they are getting used to the new routines. Establish contingency plans BEFORE starting school just in case, to avoid confusion - Where will you pick them up and when? Also what to do if it is raining/storms, or if you are running late or stuck in traffic? Who are their trusted family members or friends that you have down as their emergency contacts in case they ever need to be picked up by someone else? Let them know. Some parents also have a ‘code word’ that the trusted persons must say to confirm this with the child so they don’t go anywhere with anybody else for safety reasons.
14. When you arrive home, start the routine early for them to help get everything out of the car (or their bag) and bring inside to a designated spot. If you don’t have a place for everything to be unpacked, they will inevitably either leave in the car or dump anywhere at the door and a pile will mount up extremely fast trust me! This includes lunchboxes, shoes, dirty socks, homework book, reading folder, sight words folder, notes etc.. I find baskets at the door they enter from, lots of hooks, lockers, shelving or cupboards work really well. You may prefer in the garage or child’s room depending on your space.
15. Have a chat each day about how their day was, how your day was, what was interesting? Funny? Exciting? Easy? Hard? New? Try and keep it casual rather than fast and pressured. Did they speak to someone new today? What did they learn? A different question each day can be helpful so they don’t get sick of you asking the same thing. Don’t be surprised if they reply with ‘I can’t remember’ or ‘I dunno’ at first. Sometimes they need a nice afternoon tea, drink and rest before some details might start permeating out. A lot goes on in every day, so it’s hard for them to remember all the details of the day at such a young age. Be sure to re-iterate that you missed them but rather than dwell on the fact you are apart, include things such as how you are so proud of them, excited for them and happy for them embarking on this new adventure. Let them know they are capable of this independent time and are able to enjoy it, still knowing that at the end of each day, it won’t be long and they will be back in your arms for lots of cuddles.
Now it’s time for a well earned rest and get ready to do it all again! Did you find these tips helpful?
Are there some others you’d like to add to help first time Daycare/Kindy/School Parents?
COMMENT BELOW with any questions or other suggestions to help others.