By Amber Scotchburn, author of Parenting … With A Twist
It’s that time of the year … back to school for many and just starting school for others. Yes, get out the Kleenex because your baby is taking some pretty big steps! But, just as they took the steps that got them from crawling to walking, they (and YOU) will survive. Or perhaps you already have the champagne on ice and a spa appointment booked for their first day of school? Either way, you want to set them up for success to glide through this transition so that all of you can thrive instead of barely survive.
1- Take Time to Practice
Practise the school routine the week before school starts.
Write out all the steps that need to be taken in order to get out the door for school, and then work backwards from the time they need to be at school or on the bus to determine what time each step needs to be completed by.
It’s great to post these steps in a visible place for both you and your child to see, so you can all use it as a guide. By creating the list with your child and using visuals for the steps, you are preparing them to be able to do this on their own. (Put your Kleenex away! I’m not saying they don’t still need you.)
Walmart and Staples carry a line of magnetic organizers for school routines, but back in the day when my eldest (now 17) was starting school, we just took poster paper and made one ourselves. You can also order them online through EasyDaisies.
Remember to include getting to bed on time, getting up on time and getting out the door on time. Yes, there is a common theme—time. Because the time they need to be at school is something you can’t adjust, you will need to adjust what you can. When you do your practice week, adjust the things that are within your control. For instance, the night-before prep can take stress out of the morning. (See Tip 3 for more details.)
Sleep and routine are two of the most important factors of any good transition, and with your amazing guidance through this major step, you can imagine how successful they will be as they transition through the other “firsts” of life.
As always, at Parenting … With A Twist, we like to ensure that your actions are modelling what you’d like your child to do—this means that you need to start prepping yourself to wake up before the kids do. The time you give yourself in the morning before the rush begins gives you some time to prepare for your own day ahead.
2- Read About It
Normalize the experience of starting kindergarten, and give them some perspective so it’s not the big unknown.
At Parenting…With A Twist, we encourage you to spend quality time with your child. The lead-up to this big transition is the perfect time to get some snuggle and reading time in. You can ask your local librarian for suggestions or try some of these:
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
Kindergarten Rocks! By Katie Davis
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin & James Dean
Off to Kindergarten by Tony Johnston
On the Way to Kindergarten by Virginia Kroll
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate
The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing
3- Create Routines and Reap the Benefits
a) Night-Before Prep
Set your household up for success with some night-before prep:
- make lunches and fill water bottles
- pack bags with homework, gym strip, library books, etc.
- put breakfast options out, ready for consumption
- schedule bathroom times
- pick out clothes and for some kids, shoes
This means that first, you need to have the answers to these questions:
- Do your kids have a lunch bag? backpack? school supplies?
- What will your kids eat for breakfast and lunch? Is it at least 80% healthy goodness?
- Is there anything you can prep on the weekends to make lunches easier?
- Do you have leakproof water bottles?
- Did you label everything?
b) The Ten-Minute Advantage
Plan to leave the house five to ten minutes before you actually have to.
Sometimes, that might even mean setting your clocks ten minutes ahead or changing the time that everybody needs to be out the door to ten minutes earlier. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and it works!
Imagine the feeling when you are ready to walk out the door, and you know you can actually stop, take a deep breath and set an amazing intention for your day. And let’s be honest, you know you want some first-day photos, so this allows you time to get those. This also allows time for mistakes to happen.
We dare you to try this technique the next time you have to be somewhere at a designated time, and report back to us about how it felt to be there on time and have time to breathe.
4- Visit the School and Get Involved
Some schools do gradual transition and others do not. In either case, set up a time for your child to go and visit the school before the first day of school, or just pop in. Most schools are open two weeks prior to the official start date of school.
Teachers often send out questionnaires to get to know the children better, so you can wait for this and fill it out, or you can be proactive and send information about your child in advance.
Maintain open lines of communication with the teacher by asking whether they prefer to communicate through email or by using an agenda throughout the year.
Plan to volunteer at school. There are many opportunities with various time commitments. Research shows that students whose parents volunteer at school thrive.
5- Plan to celebrate
Arrange two “Successful School Transition” celebrations.
Be honest with yourself: do you feel ready for your child to go to school? If you are like most parents, you are probably having some anxiety about it yourself, never mind how your child is feeling. If this sounds like you, the first celebration is to reward yourself for getting through it.
The second celebration is to make time to appreciate this pivotal moment in your child’s life. All too often we rush through life and don’t take the time to smell the roses, as cliché as that sounds. Be a role model for your child and show them the importance of celebrating life’s little moments.
About the Author
Amber Scotchburn is an internationally recognized parenting expert and the author of Parenting … With A Twist. She is also the founder of Tutoring … With A Twist.
Social worker, teacher, CEO, bestselling author and nationally sought-after parenting expert, Amber Scotchburn finally provides what the everyday parent is looking for: parenting tips to help YOU be the parent you’ve always wanted to be. The everyday parent includes co-parents, single parents, step-parents (or, as Amber likes to call them, Bonus Parents), dads, moms, new parents … and the list goes on!
Sound too good to be true? Request a preview of Parenting … With A Twist to discover Amber and her way of reaching the everyday parent—someone just like you!