It’s been an odd 18 months. With the return to school in 2020, almost overshadowed by the fear from both teachers and parents about what students returning to school would mean for Covid-19 cases. With many missed months in classrooms this last year, we are certainly ready as a family to get back to school. I like to consider myself a pro with the back to school routine, so I thought I’d share with you some tips for how to prepare for the first day back at school.
While I was researching for this post, I was keen to find out how schools had dealt with school inductions, were they virtual, in small groups, or worse, cancelled. Sadly, like 2020. Children starting school will have their inductions in the early part of September. Most schools allowing a few days of small group inductions; others have had it virtually or worse, a newsletter; I am rolling my eyes right now that is not induction. It’s pointless; wait until September but anyhow, let’s get on with the tips.
*Contains mention of a gifted product from SMASH.
Preparing for the first day back at school
Sometimes, it’s not just about returning to school after a long break. Sometimes, our children have to change schools to different areas or move to a junior or secondary school. This has added pressure on the return to school. There is a great deal of trauma involved with returning to school and with Scotland and the USA now back inside the classroom the Scottish Sun has reported on the added anxiety and the mental health toll, with many pupils worrying about their futures and education prospects due to some missing nearly 18 months in education.
Make sure you re-regulate your bedtime for school time – Adjust sleep schedule
One of the things we get a little relaxed on is the bedtimes but more so the get-up times. Thomas still has a firm bedtime; Alana is rarely in bed before 11 pm, before anyone calls the sleep police. She is 14 and, like most teenagers, is late to bed, late to rise, and we are more than happy that she gets enough sleep (most of the time), but the struggle is real when it comes to that dreaded school get up alarm. I’m just never ready for it, so a helpful tip is two weeks before school returns, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier every day until you get to your usual school get uptime.
I also know that some of you are probably up at 6 am running around your local park, stretching on a yoga mat or getting some work done before the little ones are running around, but this applies to kids too. Just an extra half an hour in bed really sets Thomas up for the day with school. He loses that, and he needs to be gently woken.
So getting back into a school sleep routine is important, especially in the early weeks.
Lay out school uniform, school supplies and make sure everything is ready
This isn’t a new thing for me; I did this as a child, an adult before work when I wore a uniform and whenever I had a conference, but there is something extra special about seeing all those school bags and shoes lined up ready for the next day, lunch ready and waiting in the fridge. I’ll also include ironing all uniforms and updating or adding name labels. Thankfully, schools accept iron-on now; my daughter’s first school had to be hand sewn.
If it makes it easier, use a back to school checklist for each child and work through them. It will definitely make it easier come the morning when your youngest can’t find his socks or your eldest finds her shoes in the garden (yes, this has been known to happen).
Walk to school/Drive to school
If you’ve never walked to school before, it’s a new school, or you’ve decided since working from home that walking to school is a new bonus of Covid-19, then consider doing a test run. When the sun is shining, perhaps try out a route and see if it’s a good one.
If you have to drive, make it a fun drive past the school. Showing your little ones that very soon they will be back and encourage them to ask questions. Sometimes going back to school can feel overwhelming after weeks away.
Eat a healthy and balanced breakfast
I’m going, to be honest; my kids aren’t ones for fussy breakfasts. They like their toast, yoghurt and juice. I usually have to hand a plate to Alana to get her to eat it, but we have a rule – we all eat breakfast before school. We lead by example and eat breakfast, and strangely, neither of my kids are cereal fans which saves on the sugar. Eat breakfast!
Pick up some easy to read books
I liked this one. I know school libraries and kids read in class and bring them home in their book bags (pre-covid-19) anyway, but I used to love letting Alana pick two back to school books. We’d read them before bed and usually involved a princess of some kind.
Sadly she grew out of books and reading when her dyslexia took hold. I do miss seeing her reading a book, but definitely, something you could start doing a week or two before school is back, maybe visiting a local library to get them back into learning mode. Even audiobooks!
Talk to your child
I have a 14-year-old who finds school a struggle; anxiety levels will begin peaking the week before and earlier if she receives her class list via email beforehand. Thomas loves school; he will be anxious going back in but nowhere near as unsettled as Alana. Thomas’ school is great with settling in periods, and he’s got the same teacher who is fantastic.
Although hard sometimes, I love sitting down with Alana and asking her what she’s looking forward to about school. To take the edge off the nerves and the anxiety. It’s obviously a little more complicated with covid tests and mask-wearing and all the rules the students have to follow. It’s just a quick conversation, nothing heavy; I usually do it in the car when she’s relaxed and talking. Thomas, we tell him a day or two before that he’s going back to school, he’s going to see his class, mention his teacher (by name) and remind him up until the day that it’s coming. It doesn’t stop the excitement on the first day, but at least he’s ready.
Give it a try.
Practice getting ready for school – include self-care skills
If you have a young child, self-care skills are starting to be encouraged from a much younger age. With the influx of covid-19, schools want children ready and able to dress themselves, take themselves to the toilet and be confident with personal hygiene. If you have children barely four when starting school, this can feel overwhelming to their tiny minds, but rather than writing their names now, a teacher friend told me, teachers want confident dressers.
You know your child better than anyone; schools also opt for simple uniforms to encourage independence, so no buttons. I remember walking out of the toilet still struggling to pull up my extra thick red tights at 5 years old and them sagging around my ankles. I would say, have a little practice run. Can they get to the toilet across the hall in time if they have to struggle with clips? You get the picture.
Allow your child to choose some healthy snacks for their lunch box
In our house, this is quite simple. Thomas has school dinners, likes them, eats it all, and we know he’s getting a good balance and healthy meal. Alana has a lunchbox with snacks. If you prefer they have snacks after school in a controlled parental environment, then the same thing applies. Ask them which snacks they’d prefer.
Back to school shopping
I left this tip until last, the dreaded back to school shopping. The queuing for the school shoes and trainers and trying to hunt the sizes for trousers and polos shirts can be a nightmare. Online shopping can cut out that stress altogether, but then you are greeted with your eldest saying that they can’t possibly return to school with the same lunch bag they’ve had since the first year, so off you go to find a new cool lunch bag like SMASH. We have been fans of SMASH products for years. So it is has been great to partner with them for their back to school campaign – SMASH is the market leader when it comes to back to school products, and they’ve just launched their back to school range. Kids love SMASH products because they are fun and the perfect way to show a personality. We have been equally impressed with SMASH creating fashionable and affordable products that help save the planet.
Back to school shopping when you have more than one child is far from easy, so it often can take planning, preparation and more than one day. So remember to allow time if things need to be ordered or custom made. It may be you have to order certain uniform items from the school directly or a preferred supplier. This can sometimes take 10 weeks for delivery at the start of terms. So best not leaving it until the week before.
I hope you have found my first day back at school tips helpful. The start of any new term can feel overwhelming without it being the very first day, so if you take one thing away from this, it’s prepared, have a backup plan and take a deep breath; it is only a few weeks away before school gates are re-opened and we can jump for joy at a little normality!