So, the day has come for your little one to venture out into the big wide world and leave the safety of the family nest. It is time for them to start school, and whilst this is an incredibly exciting time for most children and families, it can also be a time of massive changes and adaptations for everyone. No more lounging around during the week. Taking things slow and being able to get out the door in your own time. There will be places to be and things to get organised before that school bell rings.
There’s no doubt about it, nothing can really prepare you for the big changes that are about to hit your gorgeous little family. I hate to be the bearer of bad news…but a storm is coming your way!
So, I thought it might be useful for me to share with you all the learnings I had last year as the teacher mama of a little girl starting school for the first time – cause I am the caring sharing type and love to make families lives just a little bit easier.
Tiredness and emotion: There’s no easy way to say this -so let’s just jump straight to it- your child is going to be so f*#king tired, that they may just go a little bit crazy. They may revert to behaviours that you haven’t seen since they were toddlers. Think rolling around on the floor crying their little hearts out because the seam on their new school socks are itchy. Lots of crying, irritability, irrational and extremely emotional. You may also experience behaviours that you have never seen from your child before. We experienced bed wetting and sleep walking, as well as a range of other strange behaviours not previously exhibited by our kiddo.
The delayed after affect is a very real thing – this means that your child will keep their emotions in check all day, but once they see their trusted adult or return to the safety of the car or the family home, they will let it all hang out. And in a big way! Try not to take it personally or be embarrassed by this behaviour. You really are the only person in their life that they trust enough truly be themselves. Yup – lucky you!
Most of this behaviour can be attributed to their little brains being completely overloaded. Kids are learning so many new things at school and it is just so overwhelming for them that they simply cannot keep it together all of the time. Your new favourite word for next year (especially the first two terms) is EMPATHY. Try to put yourselves in their shoes and imagine how hard it is for them. New rules. New classroom. New friends. Not to mention all of the learning that is going to take place. It is truly phenomenal to witness how much a child learns in the first year of school. Simply mind blowing. Gosh the human brain is incredible.
Memory: It’s any wonder that our children forget things, which leads me to my next point. Label everything clearly. Little kids have a habit of leaving their hats, reader, drink bottles and lunch boxes everywhere so it is so helpful to teachers and your child if they can clearly identify their own belongings. Young children have trouble remembering what day it is, let alone messages from their teacher or to tell you that there is a note in their bag. Encouraging your child to unpack their own bag at the end of each day will mean that anything you are supposed to know about might be found in the bottom of that bag.
Eating: Buy lunchboxes and containers that are easy for your child to open. Many schools are leaning towards being rubbish free, which means lots of little containers or Bento style lunch boxes. Obviously healthy food options are best as they keep kids filled up and their brains energised throughout the day, but the occasional treat every now and then is more than ok. I often snuck a mini chocolate bar into my daughter’s lunchbox or a short note. She loved it so much. Teach them how to use scissors to cut open their tiny teddy packets and peel their own banana. A lot of kids don’t each much as they just are too busy socialising. Rest assured teachers really do encourage them to eat, but you know talking to your friends is so much more fun right? We often ate the remains of anything salvageable from the lunch box after school watching T.V having some down time.
Toilet talk: Please, please, please make sure your child knows how to use the toilet independently. Teachers do not, never have and absolutely never will be, wiping your child’s bottom. I was so surprised to hear from my fellow school mamas how many of them actually thought that teachers take kids to the toilet.
Uniforms: Do not buy your child shoes with shoe laces unless you are prepared to teach them how to tie up their own laces. I cannot count the amount of time I have spent tying up kid’s shoe laces. One year whilst I was teaching Prep, I actually dedicated class teaching time to teaching my students how to tie laces themselves as it was taking up so much of my time. Velcro is your friend mamas. Nothing makes a teacher’s heart sink more than encountering wet, soggy shoe laces on little boys’ feet. One is never quite sure if it is water or wee – pretty sure it is mostly the latter, but it can get a bit wet in the toilets as kid’s master washing their hands appropriately.
Don’t go over board buying uniform items. Your child will probably have a growth spurt at some point during the year. Practise school uniforms lots over the weekends. Encourage independent dressing, but to be honest some days my darling daughter just couldn’t manage without emotional support. Little girls need those little short knickers –nothing worse than a child flashing her girly bits during mat time – sorry but it happens!
Organisation: Visual routines are a great way to help kids be organised and understand what is happening each day. I made a really simple one for my daughter with the days of the week and images for her art, sport, library, reader changing days. I have also created a handy visual timetable that you can access by joining up to my newsletter. You can download it and print it out to use at home yourself here: www.chaostocalmconsultancy.com
Encouraging your child to make some of their own lunch, pack their own bag, find their readers and carry their own bag are all really important skills needed for personal organisation and independence. All of these things make life so much easier for classroom teachers too.
Homework: the only real homework your child should be getting in their first year is letter recognition and sounds, readers and the common 100 words. Your child’s teacher will guide you with this as lots of schools do things differently. Finding the right time for homework is crucial. For us it worked best after an evening shower or just before we went to school. Encourage, but do not force. Always talk to your teacher if your child is refusing or reluctant to do their reading at home. Many people are truly surprised to hear that most teachers will only hear your child read once a week. Yes – that’s right. So, practise, practise, practise at home whenever you can……but don’t beat yourself up if you forget or life gets too busy and it slips for a while. Just get back onto it as soon as you can. And please never forget that even as your child gets older – they still LOVE to be read to out loud. Keep enjoying that special time with your child for as long as you can.
From one mama to another – please remember that there are many years head on your school journey. We need to go slow to go far. Try not to compare your child to their peers – all children are special and unique. Take an interest and be excited for your child – it really does help them to thrive. Find out the other kids names. Try to meet some of other parents if you can. Get to an assembly once a term – it will mean the absolute world to your child to have you there.
You absolutely will occasionally forget a library book, leave your child’s packed lunch in the fridge, jump up suddenly from the couch at 9pm on Sunday night as you remember that the school uniform is still sitting at the bottom the laundry basket, and be late for pick up. Or maybe that was just me!
Shit happens. You are still a good mama and your child is going to be OK. Good luck for the year head – I am so excited for your child and family.
Love Chrissie x x x
“Empowering families to create the perfect mix of chaos & love”
Chaos to Calm Consultancy would like Wadawarrung of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge the elders past, present and emerging -particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents who walked before us supporting and connecting their children to the earth, water and community. Always was. Always will be.