Friday, January 22, 2021

Back to school

Reading Time: 5 minutesPreparing your child for a happy time at school…
It seems like just yesterday that the school holidays started. But the new year has begun and parents have slowly started trickling back to work.
The catalogues are filled with ‘back to school ideas’ and our minds have started to become filled with hundreds of questions: How will the first day of school/kindy be? Will he/she make friends? What will the teacher be like? How will I cope?
Every parent, especially a mum, faces the fear and jitters of the ‘first day back at school’. The child also goes through a carousel of emotions before the dreaded first day arrives.

The adorable photo that graced our headlines last September – young Prince George looking a little nervous meeting his teacher on his first day of school.

My youngest started Prep last year, and I was very calm until the day I dropped him off at school.
When we entered the classroom, the teacher introduced herself and asked my son to go play and do some colouring. When I saw him leave, a sudden wave of numbness hit me, everything just drained away.
It was the moment I realised that my ‘baby’ wasn’t a baby anymore.
It felt like yesterday when I had held him in my arms, rocked him, and had woken up millions of times in the night. The tears flowed Ganga Jamuna and the prospect of going back to an empty house was upsetting.
No longer would I have someone to talk to, no one to ask me questions all day, no one to call out ‘Mamma, I’m hungry.’
Slowly I started to engage myself in other activities and involved myself in his class to re-invent my life again.
Today, I am actually looking forward to them starting school again so I can have a bit of routine back!
Parents toasting their new found freedom while the kids go back to school!

As a mum to two young school kids, the best advice is to try and give them as much balance in their lifestyles as possible.
School can be a tough environment for your child. From classroom pressures, to new rules, to lunchtime woes, kids have to undergo a rollercoaster of emotions day in and day out.
There will be days when they have no one to play with or have lunch with – that’s okay. There will be days when they get up in the morning and have a stomach ache because they don’t feel like school – that’s okay too.
Offer them reassurance and emotional support. A day home with you and they will be ready for school again.
If they want to discuss any anxieties or fears regarding going back to school – let them converse. You might want to share your previous experiences about school or simply empathising with them regarding their emotions will give comfort.
We have this ritual that after I pick the kids up from school, I mute my music and ask the kids how their day was.
On most days I get no more than ‘Oh, the usual’ or ‘I don’t remember, but we had lunch and played and had cupcakes because it was someone’s birthday.’
It is the most frustrating thing as a parent – when you have been dying to hear about their day and all you get is a one-liner.
It has been four years now since my oldest started school, and even though I know what the response will be, I never fail to mute my music and ask the kids the same question every afternoon.
It’s my little way of making sure nothing out of the ordinary happened. And I never know, one day they might blow me away with a perfect recount of their day.
It’s one of the most important lessons to be learned – pack what will get eaten.
You do not want to be one of those superwoman mothers who think that the entire week’s vitamins and nutrients should get packed into the day’s lunchboxes.
At the end of the day, what is important is that the child eats throughout the day instead of bringing food back home or worse still throwing it in the bin while you think it has been eaten.
My tip is to always pack water instead of sugary poppers or fruit juices. Definitely one piece of fruit (depends on your child’s favourite), a proper lunch (could be sandwich, chapatti, wrap, pasta or something different) and let your child choose their favourite snack.
Other things can be thrown in depending on how big their appetite is. A bit of ownership in packing lunches will ensure it gets eaten.
Are you one of those mummies that have an extra-curricular activity planned for every afternoon? Slow down! Not only is it tiring for the child but also for the entire family.
They do not need singing lessons, piano lessons, swimming lessons, dance classes and tennis lessons every week. After school activities are necessary and help the child become a well-rounded person, however, overstimulation has the opposite effect.
Do not run your child’s after school activities in accordance with some other family’s schedule. Discuss with your child the things they would like to do and schedule them in moderation throughout the year.
Avoid loading up every afternoon, give yourself and your child a break to spend quality time just relaxing on the sofa reading a book or going to the park for a play.
Starting school for the first time or going back can revive many emotions in a parent and child. Be it excitement, fear, anxiety, happiness.
Every year a child and parent will go through ups and downs and there will be setbacks along the way. This does not mean you as a parent, or your child, is a failure.
As parents our biggest fear is ‘am doing what is right for my child?’ Should I be doing more? It depends on what more we are looking for.
We can only look at this moment in time and hope that what we have done and provided is the very best of what we are able to offer.
I know I have many times felt ‘mummy guilt’, but as we look forward to another year – as women and mothers – let us all pledge that we will stop comparing our child to others, and enjoy more wonderful moments and times with our children, guilt free!

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