It’s a time that both kids and parents look forward to and dread in equal measure. The summer has been a time of playing with friends, taking part in summer camps and having the normal routine relaxed…and in some cases completely thrown out the window. The summer can be stressful for parents trying to find things to do for their children.
With children starting back (or even just starting) at school, it can be a really good time for parents to take control and set a new routine and boundaries for their children.
Okay so what can parents of young children do to ease the transition into junior infants or back into school for those who may have completed a year of school already?
First things first, let your child, no matter what age they are, know that school is important. If you place importance on school, your child is more likely to pick that up.
There are a few different variables for kids starting school for the first time. If they have been in Montessori or crèche already, they will have been prepared quite well for this transition and may well be going to school with friends. For those that may be going to school straight from home having not had experience of being in large groups with other kids or the structure of school, here are a few tips:
- Talk to them about what to expect from school. Explain to them how school works, what the teacher will do, what they might learn, how to make friends and so on.
- Let them pick their school bag, pencil case and other necessities and try on their school uniform. This can ease transition.
- If possible take them to school to have a look around. Most schools will have a day where new children can go in and have a look around and see their new classroom. This is really good at helping them feel less worried about going into a new building for the first time. Sometimes schools can be very large, intimidating buildings with lots of children running around.
- Try and make sure you are there with them on their first day. Dropping them off is such a big event for all of you so go with them and talk them through the walk to the classroom or meeting point.
- Hold it together! You may feel quite emotional yourself but try and keep it to yourself, when you get back into the car or home, you can blub away all you want. You child will be looking to you for strength.
- Leave when you’re told to! The school staff are really skilled in dealing with upset children, they do it all the time. Your child may be upset and crying and calling for you but you need to leave them to it. They will settle down much quicker than if you keep hanging on.
After the summer and the boundaries relaxed, is it important to get a proper routine going for school?
- Absolutely. It is really important for parents to set a new routine as quickly as possible. One that suits both you and your children. By that I mean, you know your kids best and if they are hyper in the evening time, try and get some energy burned up in the early evening and make sure they are having enough wind down time. Making sure they get enough sleep is one of the most important elements in how they get on in school.
- No electronic devices in the bedroom. There is no need for them and there is a biological reason for this also. The light from tablets/tv/phones actually tells the brain that it is time to wake up so you probably find that your kids take extra time to drop off after watching or playing on a device. Tell them that all devices are to be left downstairs…they’ll probably fight you on it if they are used to it but persevere and they will come round. It may just be a battle of wills.
- Make sure they are up on time and get a good breakfast into them before school. This might be as hard for you as it will be for them but the mornings need to be chaos free (as much as possible!!). You will set the tone in the morning and if you are up in enough time and calm, it can have a massive impact on how things will go with everyone else.
- Set a homework time and stick to it. It can be good for kids to have a snack when they come home and then get straight into their homework. Explain to them that the earlier they get it done, the more free time they will have. No TV/playing/devices are to be turned on until home is done.
- Make sure their uniform, books and everything they need for the following day is arranged the evening before. This will have with keeping the household calm in the morning. Sometimes a checklist stuck on the fridge that children need to tick off as they have done them, in preparation for the following day, can be a good way of both you and them keeping track…and reducing arguments.
- Keep an eye on their diet. Make sure that they are getting proper nutrition and exercise. It is going to be very important that they get their down time as well. Make sure they get time for their friends and activities that they enjoy.
What advice would you give to those parents with children who are making the transition from primary to second level school?
- Okay, sometimes this transition can be harder for parents than it can be for kids. By this I mean, realising that your children are going into a more adult environment and all that that brings with it. It can also be the beginning of your child really beginning to pull away from the family unit. This is natural and essential for your child to do, just tell yourself that you will be there when they need you when they inevitably mess up!
- Before they begin, talk them through some of the changes that they will experience. Remember they have gone from being the biggest in their primary school to being the smallest kid on the block in their secondary school. This can be daunting so to help with this, talk to them about changing classrooms, dealing with different subjects and teachers and reassure them that they are ready for the change (even if you don’t think they are!).
- Help them set up a practical, realistic plan for getting homework done. There will most likely be much more homework and this will be new to them. Before they get a chance to get overwhelmed by this, work out a structure together.
- Many schools offer great support to new students coming into the school, whether that’s a mentor scheme or prefect and Year Head teachers. Advice your child to seek help if they need it.
- They will most likely be getting a mobile phone at this stage (if they haven’t had one before). It will be important to talk to them about online safety and peer pressure. You don’t need to scare them but try and make sure that they know how to be safe and that they don’t ever have to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing.
- What if your child is the one who is getting in trouble in school? What can parents do then?
- It’s what every parent dreads but it happens. Try not to lose your temper and fly off the handle. Find out what actually happened and co-operate with the school to see what the best solution is. Your child is actually less likely get in trouble in school if they know you are in contact with the school.
- Talk to your child, find out if there is something going on which is causing them to act out like this. They may be feeling like they don’t understand what is going on, they may have an undiagnosed learning issue, and they might even just need glasses and have hid it from you! Then they may be having to deal with being bullied. Dig deeper and look for signs but recognise that something is going on and needs to change.