Lessons for a new school parent from someone who has been there

Tips for new school parents.
Tips for new school parents. Photo: Getty Images

Dear New School Parent,

So your kid is starting school. You've spent years navigating daycare and preschool and finally, it's time for the real thing. You might be looking forward to it - maybe you'll drop your child at school on their first day and fist pump the air. Or maybe you're not that excited. Maybe there's a little part of you that's dreading the day your child stops hanging around your ankles and becomes a Big Kid instead.

I was you this time last year: nervously anticipating the first day of school, part of me excited that my son was ready to step out on his own and part of me terrified that I wasn't ready to let him.

This starting school business is a huge deal and if you're feeling anxious, you're not alone. After going through my first school year and talking with lots of different parents, most of them had similar concerns to me at the start of the year. And thinking about it, I would have loved an experienced parent to talk me through a few things to calm those nerves a little.

So if you're worrying about the school year ahead, grab yourself a cup of tea (or something stronger) and read on. I might just be able to help:

Prepare for the emotions

Maybe you're like me and cry at the drop of a hat, or maybe you're made of sturdier stuff. Be prepared all the same, the first-day-of-school emotions can take you by surprise. Make sure you've got tissues packed, and keep your sunglasses at the ready to cover up if you want to. And once you've said goodbye to your Big Kid, do something indulgent. Take yourself for a fancy morning tea or head home with chocolate and put your feet up all day in front of the TV. Try F-R-E-E-D-O-M on for size - you've earned it.

Take lots of photos

Not only is this a day you'll never want to forget, but believe me, your child will never look as neat and tidy as they do on their first day of school. Snap away and capture every moment of that magic day, it really does become a hazy memory after a few months. And brace yourself for some seriously filthy school clothes later in the year. There is no product to be found that can get the stains out of my son's school shirts. That reminds me, I've got an indignant letter to write to the Vanish head office. 

The nerves will settle

As much as I wanted my son to enjoy school, I worried. I worried that he might not make friends straight away. I worried that he'd get left behind in class. I worried that he'd wonder out of the school grounds and no one would realise. In those first few months I stayed with him until the bell went in the morning and watched him go all the way into his classroom before I felt okay to leave him. By third term, I was dropping him at the school gate and cheerfully waving him off along with all the other parents.

Your child will make friends

We didn't know many other kids when my son started school, so for the first few weeks, he complained about others not playing with him and missed the friends he'd made at preschool. So did I, to be honest. I had these images of him sitting alone in the playground, dejected and lonely. But watching him play after school when I picked him up soon told me otherwise. I mean, what was I worrying about? Kids are kids. They can't help but play with each other. Making friends is what they do.


YOU will make friends

You'll come across lots of fellow school parents this year. You'll speak to most of them at some point, and even make friends with a few of them. Friendships with other parents are definitely worth having - these are the folks that will save your bacon when you're stuck in traffic and late for school pick-up or need reminding about mufti days. Plus, you'll be needing the play-dates come school holidays.

This year will amaze you

What your child achieves this year will floor you. Reading, writing, mathematics. It's hard to imagine that your little preschooler could be ready for such things, but it's all going to happen. Not only this, but you'll accomplish brilliant things this year too. Right now this whole school thing might be a bit overwhelming with all the information sessions and important dates and what to pack for school lunch, but fast-forward six months and you'll be all over it (plus you'll be well-acquainted with the merits of the school canteen).

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