Parenting Expert Shares Top Tips for a Smooth Return to School
Kirsty Ketley, a 42-year-old mother of two from Cranleigh, Surrey, who operates Auntie K’s childcare and consultancy service, has shared her invaluable advice for ensuring a seamless transition back to school.
Whether it’s for first-time schoolgoers or returning pupils, her insights aim to alleviate the stress often associated with the beginning of the September term.
Kirsty Ketley, a resident of Surrey and mother to Ella, 10, and Leo, six, now shares her foolproof method for preparing both kids and parents for the upcoming return to school.
In the following, she unveils her strategies for ensuring a seamless start to the new term, benefiting not only your little ones but also yourself.
1. Re-introduce routines
Re-establishing sleep and meal routines can present some challenges, but you can ease the transition by gradually returning to regular bedtime and meal schedules during the week leading up to school.
However, if you have vacations or exciting plans, or if you find it difficult to implement these changes, don’t fret. The exhaustion from returning to school will naturally help them adjust.
2. Check, double check and triple check
During the week leading up to school, it’s a good idea to ensure you have all the necessary items your child will need. This way, if anything is overlooked, you’ll have ample time to acquire it.
Also, take a moment to review whether your child had any specific tasks or assignments to complete during the holidays, such as a holiday diary, an “All about me” form to fill out, or something from their vacation to share and discuss at school.
3. Label, label, label
Ensure that all your child’s belongings are clearly labeled with their name. However, exercise caution to ensure that the name labels are not easily visible from the outside, especially on items like their bag or lunch bag, which could potentially be seen by strangers.
4. Get prepped the night before
The night before school starts, make sure your child’s uniform and bags are all prepared and ready to go, especially if you may have forgotten to do this at the end of the previous term.
Additionally, take a moment to check your child’s school bag for any snacks that may have been forgotten and left inside. It’s a good practice to prevent the unpleasant surprise of discovering a moldy banana or an apple core six weeks later when you’re packing their bag again.
5. Ease anxieties
If your child is feeling anxious about returning to school or starting school, consider planning a special activity for them to look forward to either after school during the first week or over the weekend. This can provide a positive focus and anticipation.
Ensure that your child is well-informed about their routine, including what time they need to leave the house, who will pick them up from school, their route if they are walking independently, and the schedule for any extracurricular activities or clubs they’ll be participating in.
If needed, arrange for after-school care to accommodate your schedule.
Lastly, aim to schedule at least one playdate with friends before the return to school. This can help alleviate any social anxiety your child may have and ease their transition back into a social setting.
6. For new starters
The first day of school can be especially nerve-wracking for both parents and children, especially those embarking on this journey for the very first time.
If your child is anxious or upset when it’s time to say goodbye, offer plenty of reassurance and comfort. However, it’s generally best to keep the goodbye relatively brief and allow the school staff to assist your child in settling in.
If you remain concerned, you can consider giving the school a call later in the morning to check on your child’s well-being. Keep in mind that most children tend to adjust well within a few weeks.
Expect your child to be quite tired during this initial period. If they haven’t fallen asleep at school, they may do so during their evening meal, so be prepared to adjust both dinnertime and bedtime if you notice they are struggling with fatigue.
Even children who have been in full-time childcare can find the school day tiring, so it’s advisable not to over-schedule activities or appointments immediately after school during the first few weeks.
Having a snack ready at the school gates can help prevent any after-school meltdowns, and remember not to overwhelm your child with questions about their day; they’ll likely share their experiences when they’re ready.
7. Look after yourself
Parents who are parting ways with their children for the first time can experience similar anxieties and uncertainties.
Navigating the school gates as a parent can often feel like going back to school yourself, trying to find your place and potential friends among the other parents.
Here are some tips:
- Wear a smile: Make an effort to smile at those around you; chances are, at least one person will reciprocate and potentially strike up a conversation with you.
- Join a class Facebook page: Look for a class-specific Facebook group to join. This will not only help you stay informed about school events but also allow you to connect with other parents.
- Approach your child’s teacher: Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher with any questions or concerns. They are usually more than willing to provide answers and reassurance.
- Trust the school: Trust that the school has mechanisms in place to ensure your child eats, drinks, and uses the toilet when needed. If the teacher has any concerns, they will communicate with you.
- Be proactive: Remember that the other parents are likely feeling similar emotions, so don’t be quick to judge based on appearances. Take the initiative to strike up conversations and make connections with fellow parents.
Starting school can be a significant transition for both children and parents, but with a positive outlook and a willingness to connect with others, it can become a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.