Going into September and even further into autumn, I see so many mums on Twitter and Facebook being really upset at their child starting school as well as worrying about the school run. I’m obviously hard as nails because apart from having a little ‘aw’ moment as N went off happily into school, I’ve never got emotional about him going off there. Likewise at 11 months old with him starting at nursery. It’s a next step,
I’ve done my job in preparing him to be ready, and thankfully he’s always been good at setting into nursery and school settings. (We’ll ignore the couple of issues we had at 2 tennis sessions when he was younger).
I see 2 issues that mums (and it’s usually mums, as I’ve never seen any of the dads I follow saying the same thing) have.
1, They’re sad to let them go, and they’re worried about them setting in. Quite often their child might be struggling with the settling in as well. And the parents feel like theirs is the only upset child.
2, They feel like an outsider at drop off and pick up. Whether they’re just shy and don’t know anyone, or that there’s lots of mums who’ve had older children at the school so are in cliques.
Children not settling into school
The number 1 tip if your child isn’t settling in very well, is to speak to the teacher. They’ll have so much advice and different things that can be tried to help settle them in.
Accept it might take time, but you’ll have to be the strong one. If they see you upset, then that won’t help them feel secure in going to school. Parents need to accept that children have to leave them to go to school, and not mourn that period – or at least not while the child is around.
Make the school run more fun. Try other people dropping them off, it makes it more fun and a treat. Or how about teaming up with a friend so they can go into school together. Or if you go by car, walk or scoot.
Reward successful school arrivals. Ok, so rewards aren’t brilliant long term, but work on a day at a time of being happy going into school, then build up the time it takes to get a reward to a week and longer.
Be more organised and turn it into a routine. If the school run is frantic, kids will pick up on that, and will feel rushed. Get everything ready the night before, get them up in plenty of time, so they can play before school and have a more leisurely school run.
Give it time. If you feel like it’s still the right school for your child, then give it time. Some children do take longer to settle in and school should be able to support that.
Don’t feel like an outsider at the school gates
While I’ve never worried about point 1, I know where people are coming from on feeling like an outsider. I was lucky in that I knew a few of the mums higher up the school via the village or my sister in law. I also knew some of the mums with school starters from nursery, and had met most of the other parents at the ‘parents school intro day’ the July before. Obviously if you’ve moved into the area over the summer, you’re not going to have any of these links, but there are things you can do to get over the feeling and start making introductions. Whether you’re shy or not.
1. Bite the bullet
Unless you want to stand on your own until someone else talks to you, you need to approach people. Drop off is not the easiest because people don’t tend to hang around. But if you’re waiting in the same place at pick up with the same people every day, speak to someone.
Aim to speak to 1 person a day
Smile, say hi.
Stand in a place people have to go round you, or can’t avoid you.
It only needs to be small talk. ‘It always seems to rain at pick up time’, ‘which one’s your child’, ‘mine’s always the last one out’. You just need an entry point, and most people are going to answer, even if they don’t continue the conversation.
Aim for people also on their own as they’re more approachable usually.
2. Join the PTA and get involved
PTAs always have a bad reputation as having really focused and forceful mums involved. But not all are like that. Get involved, you’ll meet other parents to chat with in the playground, and it’ll often give you a chance to speak to other parents if you’re helping serve at a cake sale or selling second hand uniform.
3. Organise a playdate
Ask your child who they play with in school, and get them to point out the parents, then ask if they’d like to organise a playdate. Even if it doesn’t happen, it’s an easy approach because there’s a reason for it.
4. Go to birthday parties and stay
So many people just leave their children at parties, but often the birthday parents will have catered refreshments for the parents of the children coming to the party. Make the most of it, get chatting to others. It’s a great opportunities to see the kids and parents outside of school for a decent amount of time. That first year there’s always lots of parties too.
5. Organise a reception parents’ night out
We did a Christmas meal out for the mums and it was a great success. All but one could attend, and it really set the tone for how well all the parents get on in the following years. If there’s not a year group whatsapp or facebook group, why not ask the school if they can put an invite out to that year group – most teachers will pop a letter into relevant book bags for parents.
Hopefully this gives some tips on feeling more comfortable as a new mum at school. And if the parents are more relaxed and confident about the school environment, that will hopefully rub off on the children as well.
Let me know what worked for you.
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