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Back to school

Posted on 24 August 2017

Long, lazy days, filled with day trips, late nights, and an ever-sliding routine are what make the school summer holidays. But as the days draw in and the autumn term looms, here’s how to tackle that tricky transition back to structured days and academic routine.

Restore Routine

Take gradual steps.  Over a couple of weeks, re-introduce regular meal times and edge bedtime forward. Bear in mind that children who’ve stayed active and in touch with learning during the holidays will find the transition significantly easier.

Calm the nerves

For tots and toddlers, starting school or nursery for the first time can be an unsettling prospect. Bolster confidence by visiting the setting in advance and familiarising your child with the staff, grounds, and activities. Talk positively about what’s to come, and accept a home visit from teachers if offered. Set up an imaginative play school at home, and get off to a head start by teaching basic numbers, colours and personal skills.

For older children, the transition to secondary or any change of school can also be daunting, but take heart - there’s plenty parents can do to help prepare. Enrol your child for ‘transition day’, and boost self-esteem with reminders of personal strengths.  Nurture independence by sending children on local errands, and carry out dry runs of the new bus route. Foster excitement by arranging a get-together for new starters – a couple of familiar faces in that first week will make for a confident kick-off. And explain the meaning of pastoral care, reassuring your child that schools look out for pupils’ wellbeing as well as academic progress.

Mission plan / set expectations

Line up your soldiers and establish the daily routine; youngsters will need to be up on time in the mornings, and complete homework fuss-free in the afternoons. Older children will be adjusting to the delights and temptations of newfound independence, so keep them safe by establishing clear ground rules and devising communication strategies for unexpected situations such as school bus delays or unplanned visits to a friend’s house on the way home. Making new school year resolutions as a parent-child team can be a great way to get started.

The nitty gritty

An ordered approach to practical preparations will reassure children that they’ll be equipped with everything they need to ‘fit in’. Refer to the school website and write a checklist for yourself, and a separate one for your child. Purchase stationery, new water bottles and name tags well in advance. Pre-plan after school childcare. Promote good study habits by creating a designated homework space, and manage family communications by sharing an online calendar, or displaying a wall planner. Buy a small teddy for young children to take on their first day, and make sure older children have emergency contacts in their phone, money in their wallets and door keys in their bag.

Money matters

Brace yourself for the financial onslaught!  There will be transport, clubs, school meals, trips and uniform to pay for. And schools increasingly expect parents to equip older children with costly technology, from mobile phones to laptops and iPads. Take advantage of early back-to-school retail offers, and note that many retailers guarantee exchange if children grow out of unworn shoes or uniform over the summer.

First week survival

Tricky as it is amidst perpetual chores and workload, make time each day to listen to your child’s experiences and concerns. Are there academic areas to focus on or social worries to resolve? Children and parents alike will be under pressure to adapt as the academic year kicks in, so keep lines of communication open and have a contingency plan for fatigue-induced grumbles and tensions. Line up favourite foods like pancakes for breakfast or fish-fingers for tea, keep after-school activities to a minimum, and plan a treat for the end of the week.

Challenges are of course inevitable, but rest assured that a positive, open and calm parental approach combined with a clear plan of attack will work wonders towards settling children into their new and exciting chapter.