Four rookie mistakes of being a school parent

Don't let them play before getting ready.
Don't let them play before getting ready. Photo: Getty Images

When your child starts school, it's a big change to adapt to - for them and for us as parents. This adaptation can take time for us all, and there are four mistakes I can see I made as a new school parent: 

Letting your kids play before getting ready for school

Are you laughing at my first rookie mistake, or have you done the same thing? When your child is an early riser (as mine is) (yawn), it feels like you have quite a stretch of time before school drop-off. So, once breakfast was done, I used to let my daughter play until it was time to get ready.

This approach never worked. It always ended with a mad rush at the last minute and complaints of games being interrupted.

Instead, getting ready first makes them move faster with the incentive of playing in any spare time. All you have to do is interrupt the games to get them out the door, which creates less rush – but still garners the occasional sigh of annoyance.

Assuming academic performance is the most important thing

While the main reason we send our kids to school is for academic learning, there's more to it than that. And, I believe, there are some things that need to fall into place before that learning can happen.

In my own little sample study of one, I've compared my daughter's two years of schooling. In her first year, she was unhappy and unsupported in her school environment, and as a result was disengaged from her learning. In her second year (and new school) she was as happy as a child deserves to be, and loved learning.

Academic performance isn't the most important first step. Feeling happy and secure in their environment is the basis of everything.

Not talking to the teacher enough

As parents, we can fall into the trap of not wanting to bother our kids' teachers. We just leave them to do their job and only touch base if something goes wrong.

This year, as I've become less of a rookie school parent, I've made more attempts at communicating with my daughter's teacher. I'll drop her an email or stick my head in the door at school pick-up to say hi and ask if everything's going okay, and offer to help out when possible. Building this relationship has made me feel that it would be easier to approach the teacher if something was worrying me, and it's helped her to understand my child better. Win/win.

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Asking vague questions

I love to hear the details of my daughter's day at school. I soon learnt, though, that there's an art to how a parent can get any of those details out of a tired child.

"How was your day?" generally gets a response like, "Good". And that's it.

Asking "What did you do today?" of a school child either gets a shrug or, if your child is feeling particularly chatty that afternoon they'll reply, "Nothing".

Instead, you need to ask targeted questions that might trigger some memories of the day that seems so long to a child. Think about what you'd really like to know and ask specific questions around those things: Who did you play with? What was something that went really well? Was there anything that didn't go well today? What was your favourite part of the day? What did you like about doing that? What did you learn in maths today?

Asking such questions won't guarantee detailed answers, but they'll certainly increase your odds. Oh, and a bonus tip: listen up at your child's bedtime. Delaying bedtime is a great excuse for your child to open up and tell you about every minute of their day.

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