Preparing the kiddos for school can be an unnerving task for parents as well as children. Whether it’s the very first day or a step up in grade, the recipe for success is to plan and start the school year organised.
For students, everything is new and feelings of uncertainty can be overwhelming. Often the best remedy for overcoming these emotions, simply, ‘time.’ But planning ahead can help with the short term, reducing anxiety around anticipation, and the fear experienced on the big day.
Helping to build the right type of anticipation
Parents play a big role in preparing kids for the upcoming school term, according to school administrator, Fiona Keith.
Preparation should start at least two weeks before school to condition children physically, emotionally and mentally.
“Make sure you start getting back into a regular bedtime routine before school begins – a little earlier to bed and earlier for breakfast,” says Fiona. “This will make those early mornings easier to bare.”
Most of the time, the long summer break means a drastic reduction in mental exercises for children, so start incorporating fun activities that put the brain and creativity to work to shake off the rust.
Diane Nobles from Little Smarties Nursery suggests family activities to hone concentration skills.
“Start reading to your child every day to help develop language skills and a love of stories and words,” she recommends. “Engage in activities such as drawing and colouring, especially playing with shapes, as this will help instil maths concepts and early writing skills. This will give them a head start before they officially enter the classroom.”
Check with the school administration if it’s possible to schedule a family visit before classes begin.
“Try to meet the staff and have a look around. Draw your child’s attention to anything he’s particularly interested in: craft activities, playground facilities or indoor toys. Talk through any concerns with the teachers and staff to get their advice,” Diane elaborates.
Fiona adds: “Remember to provide the school with any documentation they need. This will help for a smooth start to school life by providing the vaccination records as well as emergency contact details.”
You don’t want to be cramming at the last minute, so start going through the essential things your child will need so you can buy them ahead of time.
“The materials will vary from class to class. Some schools give a list to serve as a guide so parents can take this to the office supplies store. Don’t hesitate to ask the school if they have a list to share. This will make the shopping easier and can save on unnecessary purchases,” Diane explain.
A general checklist should include a bag, pens and pencils, pencil box, notebooks, calculator, binder, blunt-tipped scissors, lunchbox, hand sanitizer, tissues and even a USB.
Last minute reminders
The day before school opening, have a rundown of the checklist again to make sure you’re not missing anything. Double check the class schedule, including the classroom number.
Prepare your child’s uniform including underwear, socks and shoes a day early to make it easier to dress in the morning. That goes for lunchboxes too, says Diane: “Make the parts of the lunch that can be made the night before and keep it in the fridge. The next morning, take the prepared food out and add whatever needs to be added. This will save a lot of time.”
You can even plan out what you will prepare for breakfast and consider preparing it or setting aside ingredients the night before.
Finally, make the most of the remaining hours by spending quality family time. Parents can talk to their children and ask about their feelings for the upcoming school year. More importantly, assure children of your support and encourage them to open up about school life, particularly if they’re struggling with homework.
“Kiss them goodnight and wish them good luck,” says Diane. “And make sure they go to bed early so they’ll have plenty of energy for the next day.”
We spoke to parents to get some of their back to school top tips
Danie Hilal (pictured)
A mother of two, Danie prepares her children for the new school year throughout the summer: “They read articles on subjects they are interested in and then they have to write summaries of what they got from them. This keeps them in the learning frame of mind and makes the back-to-school transition easier.”
Father of six Alan has had plenty of experience. He suggests getting your kids into the habit of reading. “Don’t let them get addicted to gadgets. Studying is hard but they must do it. No pain, no gain, as they say.”
With one son in school, Youra likes to make learning fun through games and activities at home. These activities can be related to what your children are learning in class, or even topics ahead of their grade level.
Akiko Nepau Isingh
As a teacher herself and a mother to two daughters, Akiko makes sure to continue her children’s education throughout the summer, including in Japanese classes, their mother tongue. This takes the pressure off her and her husband, as well as her kids, when the new school year rolls back around.
Andry believes in the work-reward system – allow children to have enough playtime and at the beginning of the school year, create an agreement together stating what sort of rewards they will get if they achieve their goals and complete certain tasks. Rather than telling them, ask them what they want and be fair and consistent.
With two children, Cherrel says it’s all about having open communication and showing your children you care. She recommends spending quality time with your children when they come home from school and in the evening: “Let them know you’re there, especially while they are young. And be patient with them.”
“Keep your children’s timetables visible; I stick mine on the fridge. Keep a magnetic whiteboard on the fridge too and draw a weekly calendar with special activities like PE or swimming. Each week add additional information like trips and clubs. The main thing is to make sure your kids know what they are doing. If they remember, you usually don’t have to! It’s also good for them to take responsibility for their own life.”