When the big day finally arrives, it's time to put to the test the steps you've taken to prepare your child with the practical and emotional skills they'll need.
Here are a few tips to help your child's first day at school go smoothly:
The week before
- Make sure you know where and when you need to go for drop off and pick up – it might vary for the first few weeks.
- Check whether you’re allowed to take children into the classroom or if they’re expected to go in on their own.
- Read through all the paperwork from the school again, to make sure you have everything your child will need.
- Make sure you’ve labelled everything and your child knows where to look for their name.
The day before
- Manage any nerves by talking calmly and positively about the day ahead. Remind your child about the books you’ve read together and all the fun things they’ve been looking forward to.
- Get everything ready the night before. Check what’s needed for the first day and lay out their uniform with their book bag ready for the morning.
- Check that everyone involved in drop off, pick up and after school care knows what, where and when they’re expected.
The first day
- It’s time to put your new routine to the test! If everything goes to plan, you’ll have plenty of time for getting ready and eating breakfast, before a leisurely walk or drive to school :)
- Make sure your child knows who will be dropping off and picking them up and whether you’ll be taking them into the classroom, or saying goodbye on the playground.
- Don’t forget to plan in a bit of extra time for a first day photo-shoot.
- On the journey to school, stay calm and keep the chat positive and upbeat.
- If you spot any drama on the playground, give it a wide berth – last minute nerves can be catching.
- Don’t hang around after drop off. It’s generally better to say a quick goodbye and have a box of tissues on hand at home or in the car (just in case).
- At pick up they’re going to be tired, so don’t be surprised if there are a few meltdowns. They’ll be hungry too, so bring a snack to pick up, and if you’ve got a long walk home, a buggy can save a lot of stress.
- Once you’re home, let them have some quiet time or a nap. Wait until they’ve had a rest before you try and talk about their day. Watch their behaviour and listen to what they say. Follow up with a gentle reminder that they’ll be going back tomorrow.
The first few weeks
Two or three weeks in, it's not unusual for children who initially enjoyed going to school to change their minds. Once the novelty has worn off, or they move from half days to full days, they may decide they’ve "done school" and don’t need to go anymore.
Manage their expectations, by reminding them at the end of each day that they'll be going again tomorrow. Watch to see how they react and listen to what they say. If they seem worried, they’re probably still adjusting to the change, but if you’re concerned about anything they tell you or how they’re behaving, make an appointment to speak to their teacher.
Avoid play-dates and clubs for the first few weeks if you can help it, and don’t organise any big weekends. They’re going to be tired, so enjoy some quiet time together and take things easy as they get used to school life.
If your child is a 'summer baby', they may take a little longer to settle in, so if there’s something you think will make it easier for them (maybe they have a special blanket or toy), speak to their teacher and see if this can be accommodated. Sometimes having a little ribbon or just the label from a favourite teddy in their pocket can make all the difference.
Of course some children take it all in their stride and settle straight in, so don't worry if there's nothing to worry about!