Parents’ guide to surviving your child's first day at school
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Parents’ guide to surviving your child's first day at school

The end of the summer holidays can be a sad time – no more lazy summer days in the garden, no more long lie-ins and days spent idling in front of the TV. However, as we approach September, it also means parents have to be fully prepared for their child starting school – something which can be quite a stressful and emotional task, especially if they are taking their first steps on the education ladder.

Back to school means a clean slate, new uniform and a fresh, shiny new start. It also means getting kitted out with all those essential items they’ll need. What’s the best way to prepare for the culture shock of a return to 7am starts, packed lunches and endless things to remember?

A lot depends on how old your child is. We’ve taken a look at some key age groups and put together back to school tips from real-life parents so you can survive your child’s first day back at school.

New starters

Starting school is a huge milestone for children – and just as much for parents. It’s one that you’ll have been building up to for the last year, and many nurseries and pre-schools will have arranged school visits so the new school may already be a familiar environment. Getting prepared for their first day of school – perhaps by getting into a morning routine in the week before the big day – will help make the transition to this exciting new phase an easier one. Stocking up on all the essentials – such as a lunchbox, a pencil case and the all-important first backpack – can be a fun way to start.

Here are some tips from parents of a five-year-old:

Create a reward chart

“Before he was starting school, we created a reward chart a few weeks before so he knew when he was starting – stars each day building up to it, to get him excited. This was his first proper school day and we were a little worried for a confident little boy.”

Plan a fun shopping trip

“We did a special trip to get his bag, water bottle, some new books and even pens and paper to get him into writing and drawing more. He chose Marvel branded everything.”

Early years: 6 – 9 years old

The primary school years are a time when, above all, learning should be fun. There will be increasing amounts of homework, almost certainly, but play, friendship and developing their own interests and personality are just as important. Having a child-friendly place to do their homework in – either in their bedroom or in a corner of the kitchen or living room – becomes a good idea.

Here are some tips from parents:

Early to sleep and early to rise

“When they were a bit younger, a week or so before term started we would start to get them up earlier in the morning and get them dressed and have breakfast earlier, and definitely earlier night times. That one’s not so easy once they hit puberty.”

“We make sure he gets up super early on the weekend before he starts again on the Monday so that he gets back into that routine.”

Walk them to school

“Once they were starting primary school we would help get them dressed with school bag, etc, and walk to the school to get them used to the new routine.”

Buy new back to school items

“We buy his new uniform, bag and coat, etc, so that he’s excited for going back, if only to get new stuff.”

Refresh their homework

“If he’s done his homework early in the holidays then we get him to refresh this the weekend before he starts.”

Arrange playdates

“If he hasn’t seen many children from his class/school during the holidays (if we’ve actually been away) then we arrange playdates close to starting school.”

Pre-teens: 10-12 years old

This is when another massive milestone is reached – the transition to secondary school. This means new subjects and almost certainly new kit – art materials, a good maths set and a pen as a minimum. This may also mark the end of the era where your child is first to wake up in the morning – getting them out of bed suddenly becomes as much of a challenge as getting them to sleep used to be!

They’ll probably want to do their own thing, but waking them up and having breakfast ready for them is best practice to make sure they are prepared for the day ahead.

Early teens: 13+

Your child is growing up fast and this is when their social lives take on increasing importance – so while returning to school means a return to early starts it also means getting to spend more time with their friends. By now, stocking up for going back to school will be a ritual that they enjoy and you should treasure – all too soon they’ll be off on the next phase of their lives. They’ll want to make their own choices on what notebooks and stationery they want, so keep an open mind and let them make the decisions. But, at the same time make sure they’re getting everything they need, rather than just trying to look cool. If they have their new timetable, print it out so you know what classes they have on what days, so there aren’t any excuses for them forgetting their PE kit. Post-its are also a great addition to help them plan their work.

Whatever age your child is, it can be a stressful time when they are starting back at school. But, by following our top back to school tips, and considering the advice of the parents we spoke to, everything will run smoothly and you can send them off with a smile and a wave for a new school term.