On Tuesday morning, he bounced down the hallway with an enormous smile on his face. When he saw me, the smile only got wider and he started jumping up and down on the spot. It was his first day of school. My little boy was ready to start school, so ready. I gave him a cuddle, exclaimed loudly how exciting it was that it was school day and scolded him for growing up. I keep telling the kids that they need to stay little. They always ignore me. He giggled and puffed out his chest proud of the fact that he was now such a big boy. He declared that today all his dreams were going to come true. He was going to big school!
He proudly dressed himself in his uniform and went to grab his bag to leave. “Hang on”, he said, and ran into the bathroom, stood on a little stool and gazed at his reflection. “Yep,” he declared, nodding. “Just right”. Then he picked up his bag and scampered out the door and into the car. His big brother followed, a little more reluctantly. School isn’t his favourite thing in life. “But it’s OK Mum,” Jonty said, “I’m kind of looking forward to going back to school now. I want to play with Noah and Corinne every day again.” Social life is the most important aspect of school after all.
Trent has now completed his first week of school. I’m so proud of him. He has blitzed it with flying colours. He’s a confident little man and has settled in wonderfully. Mind you, there was one source of consternation when he arrived home after his first day of school. “I can’t read.” he sighed with disappointment, “I’ve been to school, and I can’t read. When is that going to happen?”
Despite his easy transition from Kindy to Big School, there still is an adjustment period for little ones to get used to school life. Jonty also is having a period of adjustment from holiday mode back into school mode. Here are some tips to help your child get back into a school routine or adjust to full time schooling.
1. Serve Healthy Foods
Serving your child the right type of food will aid concentration, maintain stamina and increase alertness. Make sure your child starts the day with a healthy breakfast. My boys particularly love oats. Trent normally cooks his own porridge. He needs help getting the quantities and turning on the stove, but he will sit stirring it until it is ready. Jonty is a big fan of raw muesli. Jonty summed up why it is so good for them to eat a slow release food such as oats yesterday when he told me, “I like eating muesli better than cereal now because when I ate cereal I used to get hungry before morning tea, and then I would be sitting in class thinking, ‘When is morning tea?’ But now I don’t even think about it and we have break time, and I eat and I’m not hungry again until lunch.” It’s not vanity to admit when he said that I was giving myself an inner high five, is it?
2. Ask questions about their day. Be interested.
For some children and/or parents this will be easier than others. I find with boys in particular, I need to deliberately ask questions about their day in order to get dialogue happening. And even then, Trent has given me the “I forgot” response on 3 out of his 4 school days! I then find it useful to ask very specific questions to obtain answers. Some examples of questions I ask are:
Who did you play with today?
What was your favourite thing you did today?
What did you do in (subject) today?
Did you find something tricky at school today?
How did you fail today?
Did your teacher do something funny today?
Who is kind in your class?
Talking about your child’s day sometimes isn’t easy, I find they are not always forthcoming with answers. I find around the dinner table at night Alex and I always ask each child something specific about their day. Besides getting to know what your child does while away from you, being interested in their day communicates buckets to your child that you care about them and what they do. It is also setting yourself up for a lifetime of communication with your child.
3. Visit their old Kindy/Daycare
Trent had half days at school this week to ease. (He cried when he found out he needed to leave at lunchtime.) On Thursday we went to his old Kindy and he delivered her a letter and showed her what he looked like in his new uniform. Oh my, this was such a special moment. It brought tears to my eyes, and to his Kindy teacher! It was also nice to give the Kindy teacher and aide feedback on how he adjusted to big school. I know the Kindy spends so much time preparing them for big school, it was so nice to report back that their hard work had been worthwhile. You should have seen the size of both of their faces when they heard Trent’s tale that the teacher said that Trent and a former Kindy friend had been the best listeners that day. There were High Fives all around! The adults all beamed with pride as Trent explained how he learned the “b” sound chuckled as he seriously told his Kindy teacher that, perhaps when she become a Prep teacher when she grew up. I love it how children often categorise their Kindy teacher’s as one of their own.
4. Get to Bed early!
To be truthful, my problem here wasn’t getting the children to bed. The greater challenge was encouraging the boys to go to sleep once they were in their rooms!
Having a good night’s sleep will greatly assist your child to be alert and engaged in learning the next day. Set an early bedtime, particularly for younger children during the beginning of school. They use large reservoirs of energy during their school day, well rested children often will achieve more during their school day. You want to set them up to succeed!
5. Start establishing a morning and afternoon routine.
Routine is so important for children. It gives them stability and predictability. When a child is secure and knows what is expected of him/her and when, it eliminates worry and helps them to focus on end results instead of worrying too much about process.
In the mornings, set your routine up so their is a breakfast routine. Teach your child to be responsible for packing the bag with everything necessary for the day. If you wish your child to do any chores before school, also establish this routine now during the start of the school year. In our house the children are expected to Make their bed, tidy their rooms and clean their teeth in addition to packing their bag and getting dressed. I generally do not get them to do too much more in the mornings, because it is always my goal for children to exit the home as calm as possible. Extra jobs would increase the morning rush for us, but may work for other families.
It may take a few weeks for you to work out the perfect routine for your family. Each year this plan will most likely need tweaking. Some parents find they need to let their child play immediately after school, others plunge straight into homework and other activities and then the children can have uninterrupted play for the rest of the afternoon.
It will be less work for you throughout the year, if you spend extra time during these first weeks
Explain to your child upfront if you are experimenting with what works for the best for your family, and let them give you feedback on what how they like to complete tasks and unwind. (Although they also need to know that you have the final word in routine application. You have a lot more considerations to factor in that they may not be aware of.)
6. Don’t plan too much. (After school and Weekend)
Your kids do a lot at school. Make it easy for them to have R&R after school and on the weekend, especially in these first weeks back at school. We are making sure that the pace of our weekend enables the children to recover from their first week back. So even though we are socialising, it will be laid back and low stress. I also limit after school activity. Normally I only allow for one extra-curricular activity per week. I knew this would be too much for Trent though, and pulled him out of after school activities until March when his little body may not get as exhausted from learning new routines.
7. Expect Back to School Tiredness
Both boys were mentally and emotionally exhausted by the end of this week. I’m so relieved they only had a four day week to begin!
It is common for a child to have little emotionally break downs during the first week of school. Be patient and understanding with them. It takes a lot of energy to be well behaved at school all day, recognise that little meltdowns when your child gets home is also because he or she feels emotionally safe not to hold the tension in anymore. Of course you need to teach your child to be respectful still, but allow them to release their pent up emotion. Give them lots of cuddles and reassure them that they are doing well and it’s OK to feel overwhelmed, but give them strategies to overcome any problems they might be worrying about.
Giving your child a chance for physical release is an excellent way to assist an emotional child. Giving time in the backyard to play or kick a ball, stopping at a park on the way home or packing swimmers and dropping in at the local pool might help curb the temper and let them release energy through play and activity.
Did you have children starting school this week? Any first timers? What strategies have implemented to help the transition from holiday mode back into school routine?