In the run up to children starting or returning school after half-terms or holidays, there can be a whirlwind of emotions. We focus lots on how much we want our children to feel happy and confident about starting school, but what about the grown ups? It’s also important to look after your own wellbeing and confidence as a parent when your child walks into a new era. So here’s some ideas about how to feel confident and happy when your child is returning to or starting school.
Know your own worries
… Think about what you’re worried about when your child starts school or when they’re at school. It’s normal to have everyday anxieties and sometimes we need to know a few tricks on feeling calm
. Speak to others about them or read up on tricks to bust these starting school anxieties. Will my child eat their lunch? What happens if my child doesn’t like their teacher? Will be child be OK if she or he is really shy? Will my child make friends? What happens if they’re bullied at some point? It’s fine to have worries. Try to do things to make you feel better about all of the questions you have. Know who your point of contact is at the school if something’s really bothering you.
To cry or not to cry… Saying bye to your child on the first day of reception school is going to be an emotional one. If you know you might be teary-eyed, decide whether you want your child to see you cry. I really want Big Munch to know that going to school is something exciting. I worry that if she sees me crying at the school gate, and especially on her first day, she will be worried that mummy is sad. I don’t want her associating sadness with school. So, I’ll be holding back the tears and of course be armed with tissues for the journey home.
Sharing good vibes… If you feel happy and confident about your child starting school, this will hopefully rub off on them. Think about how you want your child to feel about starting school. Talk about the fun and positive things about the schools. Don’t just focus on the what ifs and what might go wrong. “If you get lost, always ask a grown up”, “If someone’s mean to you always tell a teacher” and the list goes on. Of course we need to prepare our kids so they know what to do but balance this with things they should feel excited about. Starting school is something to be celebrated too. For me, I’ve been reminding Big Munch about the cool playground, she gets to play with lots of new friends and there’s an endless supply of pens for drawing.
Another layer of organisation… Feeling confident is also about being organised. Knowing you have a few things sorted or ready means we can lower anxiety levels. Are we going to forget something really important for our child’s school week? How are we going to know when our kids need to take certain things into school? How is this new routine going to affect how we run our week already? Think about the new things you’ll need to organise for the school week. An obvious tip is to get everything ready the night before. If possible choose one night where you get everything ready for the school week. This doesn’t have to be a Sunday night. If it takes longer than I planned I’ll be listening to some tunes whilst I get everything ready.
A whole new world of friends and connections… School is also about starting and growing friendships – for the grown ups too. A lot of mums may start to feel anxious about whether they will make friends with others as they enter a new social space. It can feel daunting not knowing any of the other parents. Making friends as grown ups isn’t always easy. We hear stories about how mums form groups at the school gates, some may feel excluded and how some may hang out more on their own. Will I be able to get to know the other mums when I’ve got to rush off to work? Don’t worry if you haven’t yet made lots of new friends with the parents. Friendships take time and you never know when you might start chatting to someone you gel with. Remember to smile at others. That’s your conversation starter. When we feel nervous or anxious it’s really easy to forget to smile.
The fear of being late… There are everyday things that might affect our confidence levels as parents. For me, I really don’t want to be late dropping off Big Munch at school. I don’t want her doing the walk of shame into a classroom of seated children. I want her to enjoy the morning playground time, hopefully running around or chatting to her (new) school mates. There’s also being on time for pick ups, whether it’s at home time or at the after school club. I know the only way I can feel confident about this all is by doing it – being on time. That’s it.
Not knowing… When your child starts school you won’t receive comprehensive daily reports on what they’ve been up to. Kids are known for not telling their parents about their school day. So think about what will help you to feel OK about not knowing. Use your instinct if you think your child is unhappy. Trust your child’s feelings. If they’re happy sharing one tiny bit of their day, focus on it and make it into a conversation. As our kids start school we have to feel more confident about not knowing their every move and groove.
Find your own support…When our kids start school it’s important we feel confident about the whole thing. Work out the support that works for you. You might already know some of the other parents at the same school. If you don’t, speak to other friends who will listen to your school worries. Chat to someone you trust. It’s also about using our time and energy to worry about the right things.
Know how to manage your own stress
… A new era of school life means a whole new era of stresses. It’s important to look after yourself. Do you know when you start to feel anxious or stressed? The quicker you can recognise these feelings the better you can help yourself. Make sure you plan some things where you have me-time as a parent. With juggling work, family, life and now school it’s important we focus on looking after our own wellbeing too. What works for you? When is your switch off time? Is it exercise, watching one of your favourite Netflix shows, doing a bit of mindfulness, hanging out with your own friends or going out to an event one evening? If you might not be feeling great check out some tips here
. Plan something in the September diary, especially at the end of the month to celebrate getting through the first school month!
What are your top tips for feeling confident about your child starting school? How else can we look after our wellbeing as parents?
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