Tips - 29 January 2024
It’s almost here. Summer fun and holidays are starting to phase out and the reality of heading back to school is kicking in fast for families. For some, it might be just “another” new year, but for others it would be completely new and a lot of the times, clueless.
Don’t panic. You’re not alone in this.
Here are top 5 tips for starting (or going back to) school that will help keep you and your children confident, happy, and starting Term 1 on a positive note.
It’s a great way to get into the mindset of starting the new school year. Think of it as an ‘open plan’ where the whole family can dive into a conversation about anything, from what they’re looking forward to, as well as some of the worries or questions that your child might have. This will help to provide some sort of structure and an overview of the issues that matter specifically to your child and your family.
As a family, it’s important to talk about getting back into a routine. If you’re still on the ‘school holiday clock’ you may need to let your child know that they’ll need to rest up well the night before and allow themselves time to get ready in the morning. For working parents, this means possibly getting up earlier than usual to help your child prepare for school, as well as getting yourself ready to head out on time.
Another important thing to note is encouraging independence ahead of the new school year. Your child may still seem like a ‘baby’ in your eyes, but as a school starter, they’re older enough to know that they are capable of doing certain things on their own and taking responsibility for themselves.
This may require patience and a bit of resistance from you as a parent or guardian. We understand that sometimes you just want to ‘do it for them’ to make everything run smoother, such as carrying their school bag, picking them up (when they refuse to walk), or talking to them in a way that unnecessarily triggers feelings of anxiety or nervousness about starting school.
Especially for Term 1, we feel like we need fresh gear to help us get into the ‘new term mode’. Don’t get tricked into buying unnecessary things you’ll only regret once they actually start school.
For example, there’s the school comms (flyers, newsletters, etc.) that list absolutely everything you think you need to buy; then you hear about all the things that “Sally” (another new school parent) has got for her little one; or you come across blogs and social pages that list everyone’s everything (we’re not one of them!).
Create a list by separating the ‘needs’ from ‘wants’ to get a better idea of the essentials and expenses estimated for Term 1.
Things like buying uniforms for new school parents can be overwhelming. A great tip is to start off by only getting current season pieces (summer shorts, polo tees), rather than trying to buy a whole year’s worth of wardrobe from the get-go. Some children will have an unexpected growth spurt and may not fit into their uniforms by winter.
We get it. You can’t possibly plan out a whole term’s worth of lunches in advance, keeping in mind there will be plenty of ‘special lunches’ at school and other circumstances where it may be difficult to stick to your plan. But there’s a way you can set up a plan that you can adhere to, whilst being flexible with it.
A handy tip is to select your ‘hero lunch’ of the week. This can be whatever your child likes, from lasagne to a ham & cheese sandwich. Once you have your hero lunch locked in for the week, you can alter or substitute others (i.e. fruit, morning tea snacks) as you shop for your weekly groceries or as they’re available.
If you have a fussy eater who doesn’t like eating the same lunch two days in a row, you can prepare your mains by sorting them into ‘cold’ and ‘hot’, or ‘sweet’ and ‘savoury’ options to alternate every other day. For example, a ‘cold’ lunch can be a chicken wrap while a ‘hot’ one can be pasta (in an insulated food container), where a ‘sweet’ lunch can be a slice of banana bread while a ‘savoury’ one can be corn fritters... you get the idea.
The point is to set your ‘main lunch(es)’ for every week or two in advance, so you don’t suddenly run out of ingredients and panic about what to pack for lunch the next day.
Even before your child starts Term 1, you may get an e-mail from the school in regard to preparing for day one. And that’s only the beginning.
Soon, you’ll find that your inbox will be full of newsletters, reminders, events and more coming through every other day. It can start to get quite overwhelming, especially for a new school parent.
The first thing you need to know is that you don’t have to stay on top of EVERYTHING. Even if you just know another school parent, or are invited to join the parents’ social page, that will be enough to be aware of any key news and events coming up for your child.
Don’t feel pressured to be involved in everything either. You’ll come to know that there are different families with different ‘participation’ levels when it comes to school calendar events. Especially as a new school parent, we often feel as if we need to be 100% involved just to feel as if you’re doing your part while your child is adapting to school.
A practical tip for any 'lost' parent, is to make a note (or add it in your calendar) to set up notifications to remind you of only the things that are important – and come near the date, you can either choose to participate if you can (i.e. volunteering to help at swimming) or pass it up (i.e. due to work commitments). Remember, no one is judging you based on how engaged you are at school.
You know the phrase “knowledge is power” - but as a school parent, knowledge is peace. If you know what’s happening in your child’s school and what events are coming up, you’ll have assurance and the confidence to go about your day – in peace, not panic.
Whether you choose to take part or not is completely up to you and your child but knowing that certain events are taking place regardless will ensure that you’re always ‘on track’ with school duties as a parent.
One of the best places to share, engage and be informed is a social platform where parents of the same year level are communicating. Usually, there is a Facebook page or something similar where parents can ask away day-to-day or random questions (shamelessly) and you see others commenting or providing their answers.
If you’re a first-time school parent, this is particularly helpful as it may act as a ‘guide’ to Term 1 and lead to building friendships, as well as provide opportunity to network with other parents.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share what you know – a lot of parents are appreciative of any information regarding their child’s school life. From “Has anyone seen Sam’s hat?” to “What’s everyone doing for the school holidays?” (Ahem, Rocketeers!), and even recommending good reads other children may enjoy, no info is TMI.