AFTER the long summer holidays and the usual routine all out of kilter, the first day of the new school year is always a tough one.
And if you have a little one starting school for the first time, it's even harder and can be particularly nerve-wracking – for both kids and parents alike.
It's a big change from nursery – which is why it's so important to ensure they are as prepared as possible for what's in store.
Here, ex-primary school teacher Svarupa – who now works for online tutoring company, GoStudent – shares what your little ones need to know before their first day, and what parents often forget…
First day at 'big school'
Of course, no matter how prepared you are, the first day will be a rollercoaster of emotions.
Svarupa says: "From my experience, children are usually quite excited on their first day of “big school”, as they like to call it!
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"Wearing their uniform, bringing their book bag and also for some their favourite lunchbox is an exciting ‘first’ for them, and one they look forward to – especially if they have big brothers or sisters.
'It can be a little daunting'
No matter how exciting it is, saying goodbye can be hard.
Svarupa says: "Usually, the first day at reception involves greeting the parent and child.
"Typically, each child will have a different start date and time period, so they can be phased into the class.
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"How this goes depends on the child – if they are confident we let the parent leave right away.
"Naturally, it can be a little daunting, too.
"First day tears are not uncommon, since this is a big change for both children and parents.
"Over the years, I’ve found myself reassuring as many parents as I have children that they are going to be okay!
"For most children, saying goodbye to the person that has dropped them off can be quite scary – especially if they don’t know many of the other children.
"However, if it's new for both parent and child we often show them around the new class and let them start playing before we let the parent slip away while they are enjoying themselves."
One of the key things children need to navigate is socialising, and creating relationships with their peers.
Svarupa says: "One thing that I used to remind parents about is that their children should be ready to make new friends.
"At nursery school, a child will likely have made friends, however, there is no guarantee they will all be in the same class at primary school.
"Parents should prepare their child for this by reminding them to say hello to new faces, to share and include others in their games at break time, and to remind them that even if their friends are not in the same class, they can still play together at other times."
Follow a new routine
Whether you have a strict routine at home or not, either way at school will be a big change, with set breaks that may differ to your usual schedule.
Svarupa says: "Often, smaller children are used to having a set snack time, and it is wise for parents to prepare their children that, at ‘big school’, this is going to change.
"There will be a set lunch break, so they should remember to eat all of their lunch then.
"When I was teaching, classrooms offered fruit, so children were able to refuel in the morning and afternoon."
It sounds obvious, but if your little one is used to being able to take a nap, they may be shocked at how long the school day can feel.
Svarupa says: "Phase out nap time. School days can be long for little ones, and it is important to remind them that, at school, they can’t take a nap.
"While several have grown out of a nap schedule, many are used to shorter nursery days, where they come home and are able to rest in the afternoons.
"Once, I had a student tell me they were playing families, just so they could take the role of the baby and catch 10 minutes of shut eye at playtime!
"Encourage your child to communicate with you and, if they are coming home very tired, it may be a sign to reconsider bed time."
Going to school is a huge step to teach a child new responsibilities, too.
Svarupa says: "Prepare your child for the fact that, at ‘big school’, they have big responsibilities.
"They need to remember to bring their book bag, water bottle and lunchbox home everyday.
"One way to do this is a sticker chart, for each day this is remembered."
A common mistake
With so much to remember, there's bound to be a few teething issues.
Svarupa says: "Some parents have forgotten that children are no longer allowed to wear their own clothes to school.
"I’ve seen new starters come dressed as princesses and superheroes before!
"More commonly, though, is forgetting to bring lunches and water bottles.
"Water bottles are especially important, as not all schools have water jugs in every classroom."
Support and reassurance
Finally, it's important to remember the teachers have seen it all, and are pros at dealing with first day nerves.
Svarupa says: "For the first day we start with ease. We welcome them in, and know that some will often need a lot of support and reassurance during the day.
"To ensure things go smoothly, we avoid too much structure and focus fully on getting to know one another.
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During circle time, we often talk about what we did over the summer and some of the children also talk about a brother and sister in another class.
'This allows each child to open up a little and creates a safe space and comfortable environment.'
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