At the start of the summer I wrote a post about ways in which you could ready your child for starting school. It's a big step! I found it a little bit heartbreaking, nerve-wracking, exciting, and everything else along the way, watching my firstborn start full-time school. There's no mistaking it for a major milestone.
But once you've got over that initial first day pride and terror; after that, comes The First Term.
<pause for terror to sink in>
Look I'm sure it will go smoothly and happily for you and your child, but it is a huge adjustment and even if your child isn't having meltdowns the entire way home (normal), it is very likely that you may want to make some changes to your daily schedule to keep the weeks positive, especially as the first term will likely coincide with worsening weather and darker nights.
Here are my top six ways to make life easier in the first term.
Have a big hug
Even if the new school is a totally happy place for your child, they are navigating a lot during the day. It's a long day out! They will be eating lunch, navigating classroom rules, playgrounds, friendships and PE lessons.
When they come home, they need to transition back to a sense of home and calm: sometimes that first half an hour can be a bit fractious (i.e., a total fiasco). I tried a few things to improve the transition period — a fun activity setup, play dates, food — but actually, I think the most effective way to make sure your child feels comfortable and relaxed, quickly, is just to sit down immediately and have a really big hug.
Think across the senses
I wrote before about children being aware of the senses in helping children during a house move. And again, during a period of transition and the start of school, making sure that you are listening to some cozy familiar music, burning a familiar candle, in the mornings and again when they first get home from school — this can help them feel really calm and secure.
This is also an excellent excuse to buy more candles.
Eat but don't be beholden
That is, they might need an energy boost after school with an extra snack, either en route to home or after you arrive, but you will be surprised/horrified how quickly a one-off treat/snack becomes a non-negotiable, so unless you want to be completely beholden to bringing a snack to every pick-up, approach this with caution (or at least be aware of what you are letting yourself in for).
Might I suggest these smug and lazy granola bars as the perfect post school snack? (Image: author's own)
You might need to just shift your evening routine forward for a while and if ever there was a moment to be flexible: this is it. If you are battling a terribly grumpy mood all evening after school this is likely just exhaustion and an earlier bedtime might be essential.
Similarly, you might want to consider making concessions in areas you usually stand firm. For example, I am currently writing this with our five-year-old, asleep next to me on our bed while I put Wilf (our 14- month-old), to bed. This won't be every night and I think it's fair to say there's no real danger of forming any (more) bad habits, but just that during a transition a bit of extra security can be helpful.
Take time off
Two-fold: from school, and from your usual social routines.
Obviously the former might not be an option but if it is, then consider keeping things fluid and not expecting too much in the first term. If your child is really exhausted and you are at home, or working from home, then there's nothing wrong with keeping them off school for a day (or a morning). Being four and exhausted is a pretty good reason for some recuperation time.
Don't feel the pressure to keep up on play dates either. They are socializing all day and might just need to be quietly at home after school. This news is exceptionally welcome if you, like me, are deeply antisocial.
This is probably the most important bit and one I have to remind myself of, frequently. Whatever your thoughts, worries or reservations, you need to seem totally calm, in control, and happy about the setup.
Your child needs to know that you have this covered and that they are in a safe and happy place in order to be confident.
So. Have a hug, burn a candle, eat nice food, give yourself a break, take time off and above all else, fake it til you feel it. The the-Mum-and-the Mom-approved ways to survive the first term of school. Any you'd like to add?
This post originally appeared on the Mum and the Mom, a parenting blog written by Hannah Jull, mom of four children aged 7, 5, 3 and 1: originally from London, U.K. (the Mum), and now living on Vancouver Island (and the Mom).