Advice from Mums who’ve been there, done that and bought the polo shirt!
This is real mums sharing the hard truths from their personal experiences sending their kids to school for the first time, what they learnt through the process and tips and hacks they discovered along the way. At the end of the day, every child and every family is unique so what affects one person will remain an eternal mystery to another. Have a read, maybe you’ll learn something, maybe you’ll empathise and relate with another mother’s experience, maybe it will ease your own fears or just better prepare you for the road ahead. Whatever you take from this, I hope it is in some way helpful…
That your child’s reaction to going to school will be totally unpredictable. After a couple of days my confident, happy 4 year old decided she didn’t want to go back and for around 4 weeks it was hell. When I got here there I’d have to leave her outside the classroom making a fuss with the TA. She’d been happy at playgroup, the teachers and school were lovely, she knew other kids in her class etc… We never got to the bottom of it but I found it very upsetting (not that she ever saw that).
Expect kids to get sooooo tired. The first year is exhausting and you may find them face down in their tea as they get used to the change and adapt. They may also have a wobble with toileting even if they have been fine for years. Also, many parents informally arrange Facebook messenger groups or Facebook groups for year groups or even classes. Get talking to other parents and find out if this exists as it’s a great forum for finding out about that note home that you missed, or that next Tuesday is Mufti day or what the homework sheet looks like that your kid missed when they were sick yesterday.
It wasn’t a thing in our day but many schools seem to have FB groups for each intake, which I imagine would be invaluable in sharing advice with ‘experience’ parents and helpful if you don’t actually go to the school each day.
If there’s an option to buy a non-white polo shirt, get that one. They are not going to come home with a full PE/gym kit. EVER. And you will never find out what they have done all day. They will claim to forget or have done absolutely nothing!
While they are little, keep them off whenever you/they feel like it – and take no notice of the ‘persistent absenteeism’ letter. There’s more to life than number bonds.
Trust your gut. If you know there’s a problem, there probably is. (In our case it was learning difficulties that took a while to be identified). Also, little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems! Lol.
Don’t expect your kids to tell you ANYTHING at all, big or small, about school. Be happy with the one time they tell you what they had for school dinners and to shout “Boring! Boring!” whenever you ask them how their day went. My son’s explanation is “Why should I tell you? I already did it.”
That the school gate, far from being a clique of alligators, is a source of rich friendships and fabulous women you’ll want to know for the rest of your life.
Same here. Once you accept they may be quite different from the friends you made through work etc and that they may have different ideas re: parenting, you can make some great friends. In fact, I’m going out this evening with mums I’ve known since our kids were 5, despite the fact they haven’t been at school together for the last 8 years.
That all those transition sessions, and months of planning, buying uniform in advance etc really don’t matter as much as you think it does at the time. We got our third choice school originally and went through the whole process with that school. On the second day we got a call from our 1st choice school saying they had a place. Two days later she started – whole new uniform bought, no transition sessions, no ‘meet the teacher’ sessions, no easing her in – and she was absolutely fine and not traumatised by the experience at all, settled and made friends quickly. (No they don’t form friendship cliques within the first few days and she hadn’t missed out on that front). Wish I’d relaxed about it all!
That the hardest part for most kids about going to school isn’t the lessons or learning new things but the whole social side to school. Oh and that friendships are forever changing – I can’t keep up with who my son’s best friends are! And definitely what you teach them at home and your attitude to life has a much bigger influence on them than anything school can teach them! I also find schools overly obsessed with results and levels, which I find maddening at this young age.
That it’s okay to play with kids other than the ones they went to nursery with. My daughter stuck like glue to the girls in her class she went to nursery with on our encouragement because we thought it would make her feel more secure, but all it did was slow her settling-in process. If I had that time again, I’d encourage her to spread her wings from day one.
That kids are more resilient than you think. We didn’t get any of our choices for my eldest when he started in September 2017. But just before the first half-term he was offered a place at our first choice school so we moved him after the holiday. I think we were more anxious about it than him. He settled within the week and made friends very quickly.
School makes them very tired and they are usually ravenous with hunger at the end of the day so bring snacks.
Making friends with other parents can be great for school pick-up if you are stuck somewhere. Also I’ve met some lovely Mum friends through my son’s school.
Oh and supply them with a water bottle. I had no idea you were meant to do that until I turned up on his first day without one!
I wish I had read the actual contract between the school and the parent which many don’t. The school is responsible legally for your child between school hours. If something is repeated at school, i.e. bullying, harassment, etc, the school is responsible for the duty of care. If it is not taken on board you can take the school to court. Many parents just sign papers and don’t realise that they are handing legal right over to the school.
I echo what Lianne says for both primary but more importantly secondary school; and also be aware they will change their T&Cs very much under the radar. For most parents this will not matter, however if your child suffers bullying, has special needs or indeed allergies etc, it may become more of an issue. Also you will be asked to do a lot and be engaged at the convenience of teachers, not working parents. Also you will be asked to do things at very short notice and you have to be ready for that. Being a governor is a big job too – it carries legal responsibilities so don’t walk into it blindly.
That it’s vital to equip your child with the skills to stand up for themselves because teachers often won’t see incidents like little Jonny always shoving your kid in the toilets and even if they do, they can’t always be relied upon to deal with issues fairly.
Buy a nitty gritty comb and some spray leave-in conditioner and use it every week! Nits are sneaky little f**kers but preventative combing every week goes a good way to making sure they don’t take hold. Also get a big diary and write in the dates from the notes that get sent home all the time and also take photos of all letters.
My daughter has a late August birthday, so she started school in September so much younger than the rest of her class. It made a huge difference. She clung to my leg for weeks. We had to take time out and try again a few months later. They’re unique and different and it’s hard putting them all through the same system.