An open letter to the new school parents

Dear Little Houghton Day Nursery Parents

So, your little one is off to ‘big’ school this year. Your baby who has only been on this world for a measly 4 years. The one you have nurtured, cared for, fed in the small hours, weaned, taught how to talk and walk… They have suddenly grown up and going to be catapulted into their school years.

You’re not alone if the thought makes you a little bit sick in the back of your throat and makes your eyes prick little tears when you imagine their first day.

I felt just like you last year when my eldest daughter, Jessica, was approaching school faster than I had wanted her to. I was lucky: due to her birthday being a few days after the school cut off point, I had an extra year before I had to embark on the journey that is starting school (and I really can say that it is like a little journey).

But having Jessica start school almost another year later didn’t make it any easier for me. For months I couldn’t even bear the thought of her going; and once I could bear to face it, my tummy would flip as soon as the topic came up in conversation or my mind allowed me to think about it for a moment.

Who will give her a cuddle?Jessicas first day

I worried about EVERYTHING (as I am sure you are, too!) Will she know where to put her bag and coat? Will she make friends? Will someone give her a cuddle when she inevitably falls over and grazes her knee (anyone who ever met Jessica will know how clumsy she is!) What happens if she doesn’t like the food – will she go hungry?

I also dreaded having to meet the other parents and worried if I would fit in and prayed that Jessica would make friends with a child whose mum was nice and had a similar personality to me. Then there was the whittling about school uniform, bags, PE kits, organising life around the settling days during the first few weeks..the list was endless!

I think all of this worrying is perfectly normal, it’s a big change for both you and them and it’s also a sign that your child is growing up – and no one enjoys thinking about that!

From my experience I can reassure you that it will be okay. Once you have got through those first few drop offs (after which it’s perfectly fine to cry, if you need to) those awful worries will soon be replaced with relief because they have made a friend at school. They soon learn where their bag and coat lives and you suddenly realise that they aren’t quite as little. They are much more capable than you first thought. Soon they will have you welling up about other things – the first time they read proper words in books and all the times they come home and tell you what they have learned (I now know what diagraphs are!)

Top tips for a smooth start to school..

• Even if you are really worrying about them starting school, try hard not to show it. Children are amazing at picking up on our worries and wares – try to keep things positive and encourage them to get excited about their new environment. ‘Isn’t is so amazing that your going to have a new place to play in?’ ‘Did you know they have a pirate ship in the playground, that sounds like so much fun!’

• Make sure they know they key areas in school that will help them on their first day. Most children are offered at least one settling session at school. Show them where to put their coat and bags, where the toilet is and where their favourite activity can be found e.g. the book corner, construction area etc.

• Don’t spend a fortune on school clothes! Now, as hard as it is to not splurge the cash on ALL THE THINGS, really think about what they actually need. Do they need to have a coat with the school logo on or can you provide your own and get away with it being half the price you would have had to spend? They will only get it covered in paint, glue, mud etc anyway (and no, school don’t often use washable paint, believe me!) The one thing I would personally invest in is school shoes – no they don’t need to cost the earth but I’d recommend getting ones that have been properly fitted. They spend all day long in these shoes and there is nothing worse than being uncomfortable in shoes that rub or fit improperly. (I’d also recommend that you get them to wear their new school shoes for at least a day before they start, just to wear them in a bit and ensure that they don’t rub etc.)

They are going to be tired. Very tired.

• Be prepared – expect them to come home both weary and incredibly hungry. Stock loads of healthy snacks at home so you can ‘top them up’ when they get in. It’s perfectly normal for children to come home and be very tired, or tearful, or just plain grumpy! In the first few weeks they are taking in a lot of new information – think back to when you last first started a new job, exhausting, isn’t it?! Children are going through the same. It’s probably best to not plan too much for after school in these first few weeks to allow them to recuperate rather than overload them.

• Don’t probe them as soon as you collect them from school. It’s perfectly normal to what to know the ins and outs of their day but don’t be alarmed if your questions are met with ‘I don’t know.’ Again they are very tired at this point and most likely will tell you something about their day once they have rested for a bit and had something to eat. Constantly asking questions when they aren’t ready to answer them can actually make them more likely to not want to tell you when they are ready.

• Ask the teachers/school any questions you may have – this is not only important because by having better knowledge you’ll feel more relaxed about them starting school but also coming from a friend who is a teacher, they would rather you ask questions that not to, so ask away!

Time to get organised

• If you can, sort a separate drawer or space that you can store their school clothes in. There is nothing worse than being in a rush for the school run and not being able to find what you need. We actually brought a clothes hook set that you usually attach to the back of doors for dressing gowns etc. We popped it on her bedroom wall and I iron all of her clothes on a Sunday for the whole week and hang the clothes in completed outfits on coat hangers. This way her clothes don’t get creased by putting them into drawers and also she can independently get her own school clothes and start to get dressed in the morning with very little help. I have also seen families use stacked plastic drawers with the days on the week on each drawer which also is a good idea.

• Practice the school run. This might seem a bit mad but have you checked how long it would take you to get to school in the car/to walk there with children in tow?

• Prepare for the next day. To make the school run run smoothly, I’d recommend getting coats, bags, PE kits etc ready the night before and having them near the door so you remember them all. Children seem to have to take in an entire truck load of things to school each day and you might be more likely to remember them all with a clearer head the night before rather than in the morning when your running late and you can’t find that missing sock and the cats just been sick on the carpet (I speak from experience!) I have been know to even prepare my morning coffee the night before so I am super organise (and coffee is obviously of upmost importance in the morning!)

• Plan ahead. Make sure that you have all the important school dates logged down somewhere as they soon come round and bite you in the bum! School don’t always tell you too far in advance but it might be worth checking to see if they have plotted any dates for upcoming parents’ evenings, assemblies and sports dates so you can begin to organise things if you are able to attend them

• Lastly, enjoy the time before they go to school, before you know it they will be heading towards year one and you won’t know how the time has flown by so quickly.

With best wishes

Heather Clark

Manager, Little Houghton Day Nursery

An open letter to the new school parents