Back to school: A guide for parents from the first day through to secondary school

Whether your child is starting their first day of school or moving up to secondary school, there are lots of things you can do to make the back to school journey easier for them.

From tips to calm their nerves and prepare them before the big day arrives, to ways to monitor their progress after they’ve gone back to school, this guide will help all parents with school-age children.

The month before, preparation is key:

*To get your child used to playing with other children and to build their confidence interacting in a group, take advantage of Sure Start free playgroup sessions ahead of their first day of school.
*Do what you can before they go back to school to familiarise your child with their new environment and the new responsibilities they will have in the school day. Taking them for a walk through the school, introducing them to any teachers and pointing out their favourite activities areas will help them beat the fear of the unknown on the first day.
*In the lead up to their first day at school start encouraging your child to dress and undress themselves, make sure they have toilet habits and washing of hands understood and know to be recognised by their name.
*Throughout August start setting specific meal times and bed times that coincide with the new school day. This will build a routine for your child and make that first morning much easier.
*Make sure you’re reading to your child every day so that they become used to looking at the printed word and listening quietly.
*Do a back to school play date or meet up with a friend going to the same school so that they can talk about worries for the big day and arrange to look out for each other in the playground.
*If your child is starting secondary school and they will be making their journey by themselves ensure you do a test run before the big day. Whether that’s walking it with them to ensure they know the route or taking the bus and checking they have the right stop, it will help calm those nerves for the big day.

The first day is here! Try not to panic:

*Get up an hour earlier than you usually would to ensure that your child doesn’t feel rushed or stressed, this will give you enough time to talk things through with them, answer any questions and make the morning as enjoyable as possible.
*Create a playlist of happy music with some of their favourite songs and pop this on whilst you’re getting them ready for their first day. This will create a fun atmosphere and make them think this is a positive event.
*Get their school uniform ready, bag packed and lunch box made the night before so that neither of you feel stressed.
*When at school, a good tip is to physically hand your child over to their teacher with a clear introduction such as ‘Hello Mrs. Smith this is Sophie. Sophie, meet your new teacher Mrs. Smith, she’s here to help you’.
*Once your child is established, leave straight away – any last words of advice or teary-ness on your part will just confuse them. Set an example of being strong and confident that they will have a lovely time.

Afterwards, be mindful of their progress:

*Don’t compare your child to their siblings or children of friends, whenever you speak about their progress or adjustment to school keep it all about them.
*If your child is starting secondary school a nice way to reward them for being good and encourage them to stay engaged is by creating a study area at home. Let them help you decorate an area, giving them some control over personal touches. This will make them feel independent and focused on their homework with no distractions. It will also help you ensure they’re staying on top of their studies. No more fobbing you off with ‘I promise I’m doing my maths homework mum’ whilst sitting in front of the TV, they now have a designated place that’s all theirs.
*Once the first day is out of the way and the term is up and running check what extra curricular activities are available and encourage your child to join one. This will help them feel like they belong and make new friends.
*Don’t ignore their physical appearance. All children are beautiful and we know you love yours just the way they are, but pre-teens and teenagers are incredible self-conscious so don’t forget to be sensitive to this. If they feel worried about their appearance, especially typical teenage issues such as acne or increased sweating take this on board straight away and address it. It can be tempting to say ‘Don’t be silly, you look fine’ but this could be having a negative impact on their performance and integration at school.

Do you have any tips for making back to school time easier? Let us know in the comments below!