I wasn’t exactly bowled over by the idea of my daughter starting school aged four years, one month and seven days. My gut feeling was that she was too young, but I gritted my teeth and focused on doing all I could to make sure she was as ready as she possibly could be.
We live in a fairly small village and the pre-school she attended a few afternoons a week is in the grounds of the ‘big school’. The schools have a very good system in place for gradually introducing the children that will be joining reception to their new teachers, classroom, playground and the bigger children. So the idea is that it’s a smooth transition to primary school and everyone’s happy. Well that’s the idea.
The first day
Following the advice of friends and family with older children, uniform was set out ready the night before and we left plenty of time for breakfast, getting dressed and a bit of faffing around. My daughter was excited, I was nervous and of course I expected a few tears. We skipped our way to school, said our goodbyes and that was it. She was in. And I went home and wondered what to do with myself for the rest of the morning. But she was happy. I had nothing to worry about.
And so it continued for about a week. Everybody happy. Job well done.
The second week
It took about a week and a half, then I think the penny dropped and my daughter realised that this school malarkey wasn’t something she had a choice about. She had to go. Every day. And that’s when the tears started. And that’s what I wasn’t prepared for.
Tears at bedtime, tears at breakfast, tears as we walked to school, tears at the gate. I could hear her wailing as she was led inside the classroom by her teacher (who, by the way was lovely), and I could still hear her crying “I want my mummy” after the door closed. It was awful. I put my head down and got out of the playground as fast as I could, not making eye contact with anyone, and as soon as I was out of earshot, I cried. Like I said, it was awful. And I was furious with the system and furious with myself for sending her to school so young.
The second term
This went on for the first half term, and it felt like it would never end, that it was all too much for her and she would never settle. I wound myself up more and more and finally decided to ask if she could do half days instead of full days for a while longer. I was annoyed when the school said no, they wanted her in full days after half term like all the others, and that I’d only be prolonging the agony if I insisted on half days. I wasn’t impressed. It was not what I’d expected to hear, I was angry and felt they were not being sympathetic or understanding. I didn’t want to hear that they’d experienced this before. Not with my daughter they hadn’t!
But once again, I gritted my teeth and continued with the preparation – sticker books, stories about starting school etc. etc. Until one day, I have no idea when but I’m sure it was before Christmas, I realised that the tears had stopped. Every morning was a last minute rush to get ready (because who really wants to get up for school?), we bolted down breakfast, and laughed as we arrived at school just before the door closed, with barely enough time for a kiss goodbye. I honestly don’t know how it happened, but it did.
So if your child doesn’t seem to be settling, or had a good start but seems to be going backwards, here’s what I think:
- The tears don’t carry on all day (the school would call you if they did)
- Have faith in the teachers advice. It may seem harsh, but they speak from experience not emotion.
- Stick with it if you can, it might take a bit longer but they will settle
- Chances are your child is not the only one finding it difficult. Don’t be afraid to speak to other parents, it’s quite a good ice breaker if you don’t know anyone
- Start school together. I joined the PTA, but there are lots of opportunities for parents to help out with reading in school or going on school trips
- Expect the unexpected
- Buy a big box of tissues!
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