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Smiling back to school

Parenting writer, Jo Wiltshire, looks at ways we can help our children enjoy a positive start to the new school year.

The long summer break can seem to stretch on forever but, before you know it, your little ones are heading back to the classroom – and for some, starting school for the very first time. So what can you do to help your child make the transition into the routine and structure of school life?

To start with, use the first few weeks of the term to instil some good habits- both for new school starters and older children. It might sound obvious, but setting up a consistent bedtime routine will really help them get into the swing of things once the early mornings start. A fun way to help your child take responsibility for their own sleeping and waking times is to invest in a little alarm clock and show them how to set it or use a timer to play a ‘countdown to bedtime’ game.

To start with, use the first few weeks of the term to instil some good habits...

Once your child is at school all day, they will need a diet to sustain energy. Lots of healthy fruit and vegetables, with slow-release healthy carbohydrates for extra energy, really help see them through – so try to get them used to this in advance, and encourage healthy snacks rather than sugary ones.

Practise the practicalities: Keep practising the practicalities – managing buttons and zips, tying shoelaces, packing  a bag, doing up a coat. Even bigger children sometimes struggle with some of these, and no child wants to feel like the slow coach.
Check that they are feeling comfortable and confident about where they need to go during the school day (eg toilets, dining hall etc) and if they know who to talk to if they need a little help with something. If your child is shy or finds it hard to ask for help, it can be especially important to roleplay new scenarios.

Positive reinforcement : For new starters, and often for practised primary school pupils, it is normal to feel a bit worried or nervous about the new term after the long break. They may face a new environment –  even those already at school will have a new classroom and teacher – and new starters will have to get used to having less family time and leisurely days at home. Recapping things they did during the holidays (teachers always ask!) will help with confidence – they could even take in a holiday souvenir to show the teacher on the first day.  Talk about any new teachers positively.  If you are confident and warm about the teacher, they will feel good about them too. Explain they are there not just to teach them new things, but to care for them too, and help them if they feel sad or concerned. Also, reassure them that if things don’t go  as planned – if they feel shy, forget something or feel they don’t know how to do something– the school is there to help them, and all the other children are worrying about the same things. The best thing is always to tell somebody and not keep it to yourself.

Arrange playdates: As term starts, try and arrange to meet up with other children who are in the same class, or go to the park or have a picnic after school. These small things will help your child socialise and they will find it easier to be themselves when there is a familiar adult with them.

Join them into the preparations: Get them involved in the routine too. If they’ve chosen new school gear over the holidays, such as pencil cases, school bags and water bottles, ask them to help you label everything – name labels can be ordered with a choice of designs and motifs they can choose with you. Once school has started they can line their things up the night before, which will help them to remember what they need to bring home again. With a little preparation and lots of encouragement, your child will make a strong start with confidence and a big smile.

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