‘Give a cheer for the new school year’
~ All parents
Parents and Child-carer’s around the country are currently gathering school uniform and stationary stock. Blazers are being fitted, polo shirts are being bought by the pallet load and the school shoe-shop workers are seriously re-evaluating their life choices.
It’s almost that time – for the Back to School season! (It also means that the major retailers will be starting to sneak out the seasonal goods soon as well – but I won’t bore you with my excitement on that, just yet)
For so many parents and children the new school year isn’t just a simple classroom change. It could be the child’s first time as a full-time student, it could be a change of school from lower to middle or middle to upper. We also have the College and University new starters and those that have moved home address and are at the beginning of a whole new school life. These changes can be plain sailing for some but also incredibly stressful and emotional for others – and that’s just the parents.
As parent’s it’s natural for us to worry and get stressed with all the changes. As well as all the normal day to day things to remember, we have to juggle new timetables, PE kits and food technology ingredients. Musical instruments, swimming kits and costumes for school shows. Then there is the homework schedules and after school activities which need to balance well with school pick-ups, family dinners and down-time. It’s exhausting.
‘And so the adventure begins..’
New starters & reception class
This can be a very emotional time for a lot of parents. All of a sudden your baby is old enough to begin nursery or even worse – GO FULL TIME!
I wasn’t one of those overly emotional parents when it came to starting school – in many ways I was relieved. But I have many friends who did struggle with the separation and worry. I’m clearly just a bit colder. But it is understandably a difficult time.
Changes to children’s routine can have an affect on their sleep, their eating habits and their emotions. After spending so much time with parents/carers, and being given dedicated one-on-one attention the classroom setting and nursery environment can be quite daunting. Children at this age take all their cues from the caregivers around them, so if mum is stressed, upset and scared – this will project on to the child and they will respond in a similar way. Alternatively, if we can remain calm, reassuring and confident this will in turn be reflected in our child’s response to the changes.
Separation Anxiety is real
If your little one is starting school for the first time this can be a very worrying time for both the child and the parents. But when the worries become excessive and constant it might be separation anxiety taking over.
There is an abundance of information online about who to speak to if you start to feel like this, there are also ideas of ways to tackle the first few days and weeks, distraction techniques when it comes to handing over and saying goodbyes and comforts for the children to take with them.
It’s important as the adult not to burden the children with your own anxieties and worries. Take the lead, be honest with them about where they are going and why, show them the times on the clock so they can recognise when you will return. Let them tell you about any fears they may have. If you have the opportunity to visit the setting on more than one occasion, this helps to familiarise both you and the child with the building, scope out the toilets and the ways in and out. Try and brush up on the best places to park, or the gates to go in, have a look for a Facebook page for your class and year group – there is always one person that loves to admin a Facebook group. Introduce yourself even if you feel like a wally, this might encourage others to do the same and will lead to some further chatting and people to talk to in the school yard.
Bring back the routine
It’s always a good idea during the last week of the Summer holidays to start implementing the term-time bedtime routines again. Get back into the habit of set dinner times, bath times and bedtimes as this will prep their little bodies for the busyness of the school term. Let them get involved with the preparation too, lay out uniform for the first day or pack the school bag together, you could even take the opportunity to show them how to clean their shoes and pack a lunch… two-birds-one-stone! Hopefully you’ve all been prepared and bought new school shoes already because Clark’s is not very enjoyable at this time of year.
Moving on Up
Some parents are sat at home right now feeling very old because their firstborns are moving up to Middle school or Upper schools in September. Again, this is another big change for everyone after being so settled for so long. Going from the oldest and most confident to being the newest with a lot more responsibilities. This is usually about the time that kids start to make the journeys to school on their own or with a small group of friends, they might separate from some of their original friendship groups in classes, and are required to take more responsibility for their own learning. The schools tend to be much larger, timetables become more complicated and lessons are spread over a number of teaching rooms which the children have to get to in time. This Christmas, Santa could deliver them a watch and an academic planner to help with keeping on top of things.
Adolescence and Self-Confidence
Don’t be surprised if your bubbly, excitable over-confident child all of a sudden loses some confidence and starts to become uncertain of their path ahead. This is common at this early stage of adolescence and with the amount of unknowns they are now due to face. They will be starting to rely more on themselves and less so on parents and will be starting to learn about who they are as a person and the paths they want to take.
This is the prime time to start educating your teenagers on internet safety and the dangers of cyber bullying and online trolling. Don’t leave this to the school to teach or for them to find out themselves. This is so important and can have devastating effects if left ignored.
For help and advice on how to approach the subject with your children and make sure they are using the internet safely then follow the link below to the NSPCC website.
If you are buying a mobile phone or laptop for your teenager then research parental controls that can be used and apps that can be downloaded. These are a good idea for monitoring internet usage and call times to friends, but also for looking at the apps and sites your teen is using and who they are communicating with. Set limits to screen time and if needed shut off the internet at particular times so they can’t get on it.
Tips for big schooler’s
- Find a friend that you can travel to and from school with
- Visit the Local Education Authority online and see if you are eligible for a travel pass
- Have emergency money tucked away in case you forget your travel pass, or need to call for help
- Visit all open days at the new school to get familiar with the lay out
- Pack your bag the night before so you don’t forget anything
- Make a homework schedule to keep on top of it all
- If you have any random concerns (no matter how small) tell someone at home, they can help put your mind at ease
- You are not on your own
- Don’t stress yourself out. When you get to 30 years old you will look back on this time and want to do it again
- Make smart decisions. Don’t let anyone pressure you into things you are not comfortable with. Everyone will respect you more for standing up for what is right
- Visit the official school website for calendar dates. They put everything online now and you don’t want to miss something.
- Travel the route before the term begins so you feel comfortable with the journey
- Set up a desk, buy an academic diary and write everything in that you need to remember. Classes, kit to take, homework due, days off, after school activities
- Find a good group of friends that you can rely on, talk to and trust
- Don’t get involved in any nastiness to other students, accept everyone for who they are and build them up rather than bring them down
- Be careful what you share online – once it’s out there it’s there forever
- Don’t be swayed by bad influences. If you work hard now it will pay off later
- Keep talking to your parents no matter how uncool you think they are. They have been there and done it themselves. If you have any worries about anything, from the silly little things to not knowing where to go for a lesson or bigger – someone is saying things about you online then SPEAK TO SOMEONE. Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief that you came forward and asked.
Parent to Teen Communication
There are going to be a lot of worries filling your children’s minds at the minute and it is our responsibility as the grown-ups to make our kids feel comfortable and secure enough to discuss them with us. We have all been there and know how they are feeling. The only difference is that the words they use now have varied and the technology has moved forward. It doesn’t make us out-of-touch or stupid, we just have to go about approaching things in a different way.
Be attentive, supportive, and give them the opportunity to speak and when they do – listen.
There is more information online at Family Lives Matter – covering all areas of parenting from birth to teenage years plus so much more.
‘You are capable of amazing things’
Packing for University
Fresher’s week for the new starter’s begins very soon. As I type there are first time Uni students packing up boxes of things they won’t need ready to move into halls for the start of a new found freedom.
Mums all over the place will be begging them to pack tea towels and loo rolls, but they are being readily replaced with music and face glitter. Plans are being made for big nights out and crazy fun to have, less thought is going into the budgeting necessary to see them through and the timetables of lectures to get to.
This is the first step into adulthood, no one to shout up the stairs to wake you up every morning, no one to do your laundry or put dinner in the microwave anymore. It’s all down to you, your first step into the real world with real responsibility. Learning to balance study with fun, shared accommodation, ucas points, and whether to buy washing up liquid or cider.
‘Dreams don’t work
Unless you do’
Before you jump in the car and drive down to campus have a read of some student websites and check you have sorted everything before term starts.
Check out Save the Student which is one of many sites aimed at Uni students, giving links to informative resources, hints, tips and discounts.
As well as info websites there is a charity set up called Student Minds which is an important one to remember. They are there to help, support and empower students during their time studying.
Have a read of this article printed in the Independant, Things I wish I’d known before starting University. A funny read giving some quality info from an ex student. Just by way of putting the experience into perspective.
- Arranged your living accommodation?
- Opened a student bank account?
- Applied for your NUS card and student discounts?
- Packed too much stuff you don’t need?
- Bought your course’s set books?
- Got enough stationary?
- Learnt to cook some basic meals?
- Thought about safety on night’s out?
- Figured out a budgeting plan?
- Got a CV made and ready to distribute?
Once all the boring stuff is out of the way then you really can relax and enjoy yourself. Everyone that goes to Uni will tell you it’s the best time of their lives, and the experience you have and the friends you make will stay with you forever. Always keep in mind the reason why you are there and your end goal. Living in halls and in student housing can get wild but as long as you don’t allow other people to sway you from your goals then you will be able to make the most of it.
Keep your living space clean, contribute, tidy up after yourself, be respectful of your other housemates. Keep on top of your personal hygiene and your sexual health, look after each other on night’s out and be responsible!
So we’ve made it to the end. All that’s left to do is label school uniform and pack the lunch boxes.
Congratulations parents – we have successfully made it through another Summer Holiday’s! You all deserve a celebratory drink and a month long sleep. Memories have been made and the kids will go into the Autumn term feeling fresh and ready to learn.