Sending your son or daughter to school for the first time can be an emotionally fraught experience, particularly for parents who’ve never done it before.
Whether you’re worried about how your little one will fair socially and academically, or thinking about your own transition if you’re used to spending the majority of the day with your child, there are various factors which could contribute to a sense of apprehension.
But what are the best methods for dealing with it?
The parents here at Wynsors put their heads together to tally up our most common questions, then we spoke to Dr. Pam Jarvis of Leeds Trinity University and Lorna Cordwell MSc who is Head of Counselling at Chrysalis Courses, to get their thoughts on the matter.
Here’s what they said.
Feeling emotional is completely normal
Though Dr. Jarvis told us that the home-to-school dynamic shift is less pronounced than it was for previous generations – with free childcare for children over three and most kids heading to preschool before the age of five – she also explained that worrying is natural, whenever your child starts something new.
“They are the people we care most about in the world, and want to protect the most so it would be surprising if we didn’t worry! There is always lots of advice available to parents at each stage. Here is a very good webpage for parents who have children starting in Reception.”
Dr. Jarvis also explained that the level of responsibility a parent has for their child’s care will affect the amount of change they feel. For parents and grandparents who look after the infant on a daily basis, they might find themselves at a loose end. However, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
“See it positively, as your chance (if not working) to join a gym, work on your novel or whatever. The vast majority of parents tend to see it as an opportunity to take on more paying work! As the weeks go by, 3 o’clock comes around more and more quickly…”
It’s important to mask your own fear and doubt where possible
It might just seem like human nature for a child to pick up on their parents’ feelings, but Lorna Cordwell explained that it can go a little deeper than that.
She told us that, according to attachment theory, kids build one strong attachment in their early years, which is often, though of course not always, their mother, and they use this relationship as “a base through which to explore the world”.
As a result, a child might notice their parent’s anxiety and become anxious themselves because their “strong base” seems fearful. In fact, Lorna revealed that most fears and phobias are learned from parents, “even if parents don’t believe they have ever overtly displayed their fear in front of their children”.
So what coping mechanisms can we use to deal with the change in our routines?
For parents, Lorna told us that mindfulness techniques are key when dealing with the shift in dynamic. She recommends avoiding high-sugar food, fizzy drinks and caffeine to prevent energy spikes which can enhance anxiety, and suggested the following relaxation exercises:
“Mindfulness, yoga and self-hypnosis to calm the mind, and regular physical activities to reduce anxiety such as walking, running, swimming or exercise classes.”
Apparently, these activities activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to return us to a restful and relaxing state away from stress, and better yet, we can get our children involved.
In summary, Lorna encourages building your own resilience and self-efficacy – “our belief in our own ability to succeed in specific situations”, which can impact the way we approach goals, tasks and challenges. According to observational learning theory, this will help our kids to develop similarly robust coping skills.
Finally, Dr. Jarvis reminded us that we are helping our children to become the people they will be, with the help of an old adage:
“There is an old saying that bringing up children involves two specific duties: giving them roots and giving them wings. The move out to nursery and to school is equivalent to the first little flights out of the nest; see it as the next step in your child becoming the person they will be.”
“Been there, done that” advice from mums
Often when we’re feeling stressed, there are two things which are bound to help – expert advice and “been there, done that” tips from people in a similar position. As such, we also reached out to some of our favourite parent bloggers for their practical advice and top tips for dealing with the transition.
Up their independence – and get organised along the way!
Bex Gower, founder of The Mummy Adventure, has been blogging about parenthood for over six years, at one point caring for her four children while all were under the age of five!
In fact, organisation is KEY!
Renovation Bay-Bee is a home and family blog run by Steph Moore, who is a mum of three children. She has some great tips for organisation, like making her ‘What to Wear Today’ hooks.
Remember that it might not be perfect at first
Life According to Mrs. Shilts was created by Emma Shilton, a self-professed “mama to two gorgeous little boys”, the eldest of whom struggled a little when he first started school.
Keep in mind that every child is unique
Michelle Pannell of Mummy from the Heart has three children and the youngest two – who are twins – head to secondary school this year. Though it has been a while since the kids started primary, Michelle told us that she remembers the nervy days well!
Positivity and smiles all the way!
Natasha Mairs shares parenting tips and tricks on her blog Serenity You and has been through the first day of school three times with her kids, who are currently 13, eight and seven years old.
If it does get too much – don’t forget, you just need to get them through that door!
Founder of Verily Victoria Vocalises, Victoria Welton is a mum of two; one girl and one boy. Though the latter is still very young, she’s experienced the emotional school transition with her daughter, who’s ten.
Avoid extra stress where possible
Vicki Psarias’ blog, Honest Mum, is where she shares all of her best advice when it comes to the work/life/parenting balance and she has a book on the subject too!
Look after yourself too
Charlotte Pearson of Mummy Fever is a Freelance Strategic Consultant who specialises in the development of services for children and families, within the health and social care sector. She’s also a mum of four herself.
Bear in mind that your child might thrive instantly which can be lovely – and upsetting!
Wave to Mummy is a family lifestyle blog spearheaded by Sanna P, a Finnish mummy and analyst living in London with her husband and two children.
We hope this advice goes a little way towards quelling any worries you might have about your child’s first day at school!
Have you seen a son or daughter through reception already? We’d love to hear about your experiences over on Facebook today. Of course, preparation always makes things easier and Wynsors is always on hand to help you get those uniform essentials sorted ahead of the new school year – check out our school shoes today.