Back to school countdown begins... here's how to prepare your child

The countdown to the return to school is well underway. EIMEAR HUTCHINSON shares some advice on how to prepare your children in the weeks ahead for school
Back to school countdown begins... here's how to prepare your child

For parents who are new to the whole world of primary school system, it could perhaps feel a little daunting this year, says Eimear. Picture: Stock

SOME summers, it feels like we are barely finished with one school year and we are already planning the next.

Although I must admit I am not the most organised mother when it comes to back to school, I think I just can’t face into it before the summer holidays and I usually end up leaving everything until August, when it begins to feel like back to school is starting to hang over me. I suspect I work best under pressure!

I have three of the girls in school this year, one in fourth class, one in first class and a junior infant starting her schooling journey in what are undoubtedly strange times in the greater scheme of things, but she will know no different. I feel like playschool was similarly affected by Covid in that there were new procedures put in place at drop off and pick up and more handwashing, so she is somewhat used to the new ways of doing things in this post-Covid world.

For parents who are new to the whole world of the primary school system, it could perhaps feel a little daunting this year with so much change having been put in place when compared with other years.

Regardless of the changes that have come about in primary schools over the last year, there is still lots you can do to help prepare your children for starting school that was the same as every other year, and honestly, I think some of the changes implemented were for the better.

I love the fact that children only have to bring their lunchboxes and bottles of water in their school bags. Previously, I found the girls’ bags could be very heavy some days with all the books and workbooks required for homework.

The drop off arrangement in many schools has changed, previously parents were allowed to wait in line with new beginners but that isn’t a possibility with Covid now. Most playschools had a similar arrangement so most junior infants will be familiar with that quick drop off now. I admit I was apprehensive about this last year as my lady is very shy, but honestly I think it is probably a great thing.

It is often us as parents that are the reluctant ones to let our children go, double checking they are OK, fixing their bags, pulling up socks, and they certainly feed off that.

It would be remiss of me not to comment on things that didn’t work well because of the Covid arrangements. Our school is a relatively big school where several classes are split in two. As a result of Covid they are separated on the yard as well as in the classroom and my girls definitely struggled a little with that total segregation from friends, especially when there wasn’t the option to have playdates with the friends they didn’t get to see in school.

This year, with after-school activities having returned, it lessened the impact of that inconvenience.

I don’t know what your household is like, but in our house routine tends to go out the window during the summer months, and I love that, we all thrive on it for a few months. But I am always glad to welcome back in the return of the school routine, which generally means earlier to bed. I try to re-establish that routine about a week before the return to school, some of my children are late risers so they especially need the help readjusting to the earlier starts come school time.

My experience with the older girls starting in junior infants was that there is a happy balance to be struck over the summer months in terms of getting excited about them starting school and also making sure not to build it up too much. It is a huge change for them, and most settle in with no major issues, but many have the odd wobble, often a few weeks in when they are probably a little tired after the adrenaline of the first few days and weeks dies down.

I find it useful to try and talk them through what a school day is like.

I explain that there are two breaks and I find it helpful to explain to them what to eat at each one. Make sure they can open and close their lunch boxes and bottles; many are already familiar with that from playschool but it is good to double check it before that big first day. It is also worth explaining that there is a little bit more sitting down than they are used to in playschool!

They will inevitably have questions and queries, maybe even little worries, which is normal and it’s important to give them time and space to air those, assure them these are valid questions and don’t brush anything off.

I am so excited for this year’s new primary school recruits, theirs has been an unusual and broken start to schooling during their preschool years so here’s hoping they get a good run at schooling going forward!

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