This time last year I was feeling overwhelmingly sick at the thought about my daughter starting school after the summer. She was a summer born so would be one of the youngest in her class. I had no idea how she was going to cope with the long days, or how she would fare along with a motley crew of older kids. Even if she had not been summer born I am pretty sure I would have been as worried about her starting school that September. I mean…it’s only natural to be totally worried about your child starting school, especially if it’s your first born right? Fast forward the best part of the year down the line and guess what. I won’t lie…it took some adjusting, but for those parents out there frantically googling about whether they are entitled to be worried about their child starting school. Yes of course you are totally within your rights to be worried about your child starting school! It’s a massive milestone, after all. Now that we are out of the “worried about my child starting school” stage, I wanted to share some things I’ve learnt as a been there, done that, got the school book bag mum – mainly that the following are all things that are totally normal to be worried about when your child is starting school. That they won’t make any friends Starting school can be a really overwhelming experience in terms of friendships for kids. I know some of you might be worried about your child starting school and not knowing any other children, or maybe only knowing one. The thing is – even if they go in knowing someone, it is such a different and new dynamic that I can tell you now that ALL children starting school will feel pretty out of sorts when it comes to friendships at the outset but this is totally normal. This is what the period of settling is for. Eventually, once they have all got to suss each other out, and possibly have some little power struggles along the way (again: normal), I am pretty confident in saying that even if your child is really shy they will find at least an ally or two in their new school environment. Here are some handy tips on how you can help your child make friends at school.
Also, it’s totally normal for them to come home saying “nobody played with me today” – we had this for a VERY long time, even though my daughter is quite sociable. Try not to be too upset about this or freak out but instead encourage them to try getting to know or playing with other children by asking them if they can play with others or perhaps approaching other children who might look like they could do with a play buddy too (most schools worth their salt will have systems in place to help your child along in getting to know other children like activity groups etc). That they will get eaten alive with so many kids there It’s true – transferring over from the little cocoon environment of a nursery to a reception year with a few classes in the year does seem like a big jump. Again, you have to give credit to your child’s school and know that they have got this. I remember when I first went into my daughter’s school because I had to collect her early because she had been stung by a bee at playtime. I thought I was going to walk into the classroom and it be all hell breaking loose. Instead, I saw the calmest of classrooms, with the rest of the classes calming queuing up to have what looked like a very orderly lunch. From that point on, I never worried again. My advise is if you are nervous about the school environment if you are able to, try to find an excuse to go into the school and see it in action – whether it’s just another look round or helping out with school/class activities. Sometimes our own minds can be our own worst enemy and conjure up all types of ridiculous scenarios which just aren’t true. Remember – we fear the unknown! But if you’re truly worry you can also help by teaching your child to be more resilient. That they will totally hate it I won’t lie – there is going to be a period of adjustment for your child when they start school. They may be some tears and tantrums in the first term when they try to adjust to this new exciting world of theirs. Again – this is totally normal. I can think of various children who started balling at drop off and now instead skip with glee to school. Remember the first time your dropped off your child at nursery? Yup, it’s the same shizzle.
But I’d like to add that however your child takes to it at first, all children have their off days – and even weeks. Remember that this too shall pass. But also know that some children do take longer to settle than others, and that’s totally okay. That they won’t eat anything at school lunch This was a biggie amongst the new school mums in our class. With so many kids being fussy eaters you wonder whether they will just eat air for lunch at school. But I can promise you this – so many children I know who were the fussiest of eaters have actually flourished since having school lunches because there is no choice, and nobody to try and have a power struggle with. And yes, your child WILL come out of school VERY HUNGRY demanding snacks – this doesn’t mean they didn’t eat any lunch – more that just lunch was a long time ago and they have since burned it all off going absolutely bonkers at playtime. That the teachers will be total strangers to them and will be so busy they won’t be able to help them settle I know – it’s scary handing over your little to what feels like a total stranger. It feels like you are basically giving them away. How can they possibly have the time and attention to devote to your child? Again – trust me, we need to give teachers more credit! They are amazing beings who are able to do this even with almost 30 children in a class in some cases, as incredible as it sounds. You will actually be amazed at how with time you child comes to not only love their teachers, and classroom assistants but come to have the most incredible bonds with them too. Also be aware that teachers tend to try to get to know the children beforehand – if your child is more sensitive then they will know about that and probably be expertly reassured to help keep the classroom balance. That they are not ready at all This might particularly be a worry for parents of summer borns (like me) who tend to be less developed emotionally, physically and mentally. I was one of those parents, worrying if I had done the right thing or if I should have deferred a year. My daughter is now thriving….no actually, storming it now! It’s amazing how children catch up and things even out. You have to trust me on this one. That they won’t cope with the long days I’ll be straight up – they do get VERY tired in the first term and also towards the end of any half term. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason there are so many school holidays because there little brains and bodies need them to recover!
Things can be so exciting in the first term, and if it’s an Indian Summer with gorgeous weather it can be tempting to race down to the park after school every day. This was a big mistake of mine as my daughter was running high on the excitement of starting school, and so we would go down to the park afterwards everyday. Needless to say….she was shattered. After about a week of it, I cottoned on…and instead we’d go straight home after school for a big old chill. Other things you should know Don’t be worried – your child picks up on it. Swallow your anxieities and make it fun if you can. Preparation is key, so check out my post on how to get your child school ready. Reception class isn’t that big a leap from nursery at the outset in that there is still a huge amount of play and classroom support. Your child has all the foundations in place for starting school – everything they have been doing in nursery has been getting them ready for this moment! Though it might feel like you’re giving your child away and it’s killing you inside, early years education is totally normal and so a very important milestone in their life. And finally, I just want to say that although this is a huge change for them, it’s also a huge change for you mama, and that’s something not many people talk about. Your baby is growing up and is spending a huge chunk of the day away from you. You are going to have to learn the school ropes too. So take it easy on yourself. And finally, know that yes, the initial settling in period will probably take a bit of adjustment for everyone, but now a year down the line I am pretty confident in saying to you that your child will develop wonderful relationships with her peers and her carers. A year down the line you’ll be sitting here like me wondering what on earth you were worried about!