In the run up to my eldest child starting school I did a huge amount of research and planning. Sending my then five-year-old off to school seemed like such a huge transition for her. I wanted to do everything I could to give her a good start.
There was plenty of information to wade through. What to expect, how to make friends, what to put in her lunchbox, what skills to practice at home (opening her own lunchbox seemed to be the most critical.)
But there was one thing that I had totally overlooked, a detail that didn't come up in any of the starting school guides that I had read. My daughter wasn't the only one going through a big change – as her mum, I was going through my own transition. I was becoming a school mum.
The transition hit me harder than it hit my care-free girl. She sailed into each day with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. On the other hand, I was exhausted and overwhelmed.
Everyone tells you that your kid will be extra tired during those first few weeks of school. But nobody told me that I was going to be extra tired too.
With hindsight, it makes sense – getting on top of a new school routine, remembering the names of the new people I was meeting and maintaining my job meant that my cognitive load was bursting at the seams. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Personal evolution coach Danielle Colley says that there are lots of reasons that the transition to school can be hard on patents as well as kids. "Parents are dealing with their own emotions at this time," she says.
"Will my child feel comfortable? Will they fit in? Will they speak up when they need the bathroom? These kind of worries are perfectly natural as we know it's a big transition even for kids who are well versed with pre-school," she adds.
On top of this, Colley says that any new routine takes time to relax into. "Often schools have late starts or early pick ups for their kindy students which can impact parents in various ways, including balancing their own work/life load," she tells me.
Colley also notes that there are some parents who might find the transition especially hard. "Full-time workers may find the transition to school extra difficult to juggle, especially if work is not super flexible while you find your feet. Where you can, draw on your support network, and set realistic expectations with your work. If you're an introvert, or a nervous parent, the bustle of big school may feel overwhelming."
Colley has the following tips to manage the transition:
- Being organised the night before can help with the morning rush. Setting routines early in the piece will help everyone to know what to expect at each time of the day.
- Creating a fridge chart with what your child needs to do to get ready for school will help to foster independence, and keep a new school parent's sanity in this early days.
- Getting enough sleep is imperative, but so is down time together at the end of the day. All of the new experiences and people may lead to unusual behaviour, but whether there is or not, sitting together and cuddling at the end of the day and talking about all of the new things is a great way for you to assess how your child is going, and they get to decompress through loving touch and nurturing time with you.
- Remain calm and positive in order to help your child feel calm and positive too. Remember, you made it through this transition, so they will also!