So we've done the first day. We've counselled our children on the wonders of school, been counselled on how great an adventure it is for them, and we're starting to settle into a new routine of school runs and early morning get ups. But what if life doesn't seem to be settling as well as we'd hoped it would? Firstly, it's still early days! Secondly, there are steps you can take to make it go a little more smoothly. Here are some tips on helping kids settle at school.
As much as you can, prepare for the busy school morning. Set everything out ready the night before so that there are no last minute tears over missing school shoes, or tantrums over what to have for breakfast. It really does help! You might want to also prepare emotionally for the school day- both you and the children! Talk about what you're doing tomorrow- some children will take a while to realise that school is every day, especially if they're used to part time childcare. Also, try to prepare your child for the school day by asking about routines that you know occur- lunch time, play time, PE etc. Let your child talk to you about what they're looking forward to at school, and talk over any worries they have too. Monkeyfootedmummy (@monkeyfeettweet) says she always starts with lunch time, as this is where the real adventures happen at school! You can read about her own family adventures here.
Have a good after school routine
A top tip from Fi, from Childcare is Fun! and author of The Baby Bedtime Book. A good after school routine is about as essential as a good bedtime routine. All work and no play is no fun for anyone! Make sure you agree on an achievable activity after school, that you and your child can both look forward to. It can be a trip to the library, or the park, or even home to play a board game. Let your child decide, and if your child has homework, make sure this is factored into the plans too!
Fi also highlights the importance of talking to your child. Ask them to tell you three things about their day; often this will encourage them to talk about anything that is worrying them too. Talk about the school day well before bedtime so that if any issues arise, you can chat about them, hopefully without disturbing sleep.
Have a good bedtime routine. Another top tip from Fi! We all know the importance of a good routine for babies and toddlers, and this routine remains important for school age children too. A good bedtime routine is one that works for you and your family, so find one that suits you. Most families tend to agree that bath, story and bed works well, and there is lots of research supporting the importance of the bedtime story too.
Betta Living recently carried out a poll to uncover 2014's favourite bedtime stories, and have a series of events planned for September and October that are designed to support bedtime reading. Although many books are readily available on e-readers these days, there really is nothing better than snuggling down at bedtime with a 'real; book- and the bedtime story can be a chance for you and your child to reconnect after a busy day.
If you're wondering, the top three bedtime story books are The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson), The BFG (Roald Dahl) and The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe (C.S Lewis) -proving that some stories never go out of fashion.
Embrace new friendships
And this goes for both your child, and you. Sometimes settling onto the school playground is just as hard for adults as it is for children. Make an effort to talk to your child about their new friends- the folks at Lumipotti suggest arranging play dates so that these friendships can be strengthened outside of school too. Another way to reinforce new bonds is by taking the time to chat to other parents when you drop off and pick up. Remember that it can be daunting for everyone, and that the school run can sometimes be a lonely place when you don't know anyone. If you make the effort to be friendly and sociable, chances are your child will, too.
Talk to the teacher
If your child is really struggling to settle, either with a new sleep routine, the new school day routine, or just school in general, do make an appointment to see the teacher. Nobody at school wants any child to suffer without making every effort to ensure they have done all that they can to help. Some children will take longer than others to settle, and some will seem to fit right in straight away. Both situations are totally normal, and there is no need to worry. If your child does need longer, there might be things that the teacher has noticed that you haven't.
For example, some children find the business of school drop off daunting, others find that lunch time is too crowded, and others will feel anxious about getting changed for PE. In these cases, simple solutions can be found to ease your child in more gently.
Whatever the reason for upset, remember that while it might not sound important to you, it is to THEM. Listen to your child, talk to them and make sure you involve the teacher if you are concerned.