In an attempt to make the transition from summer fun to the first day of school a little easier on parents, here are a few easy-to-follow tips.
Are you the parent who gracefully waves to your child that first day they disappear to the back of the bus, biting back uncontrollable sobs, allowing just one love-drop to dance down your cheek? Or, are you like me, running around the house, high-fiving the walls, hugging the fridge, rolling on the floor with the television remote in your greedy little paws, screaming, “Mine all mine!”
In either case, prior to that moment, we parents must ready our children for that very important first day of school milestone….but how?
Here’s some advice:
Academic Preparation: I have mixed feelings about spending the summer honing school skills rather than digging in the dirt, under-dogging at the park and embarking on adventure hikes. I am certain the summer math flash cards did not make me a better student, rather, they made me fear small, white pieces of paper (think recipe cards and that dreaded paper airplane festival) and anything with the word “flash”; flashlights, flash-fried foods, flash floods, Flash Gordon.
Conversely, I do think my hunt for the imperfect crayfish while mucking around in the river did help when it came time to dissect a frog. I also learned the art of negotiating while playing run-sheep-run through our neighbourhood.
Clothing: If your daughter’s entire first school day ensemble centres around one particular theme (in our case it was princesses), do not make the mistake of buying a back-pack with said theme unless the princess donning the front of the bag has the same hair colour as your child.
The kindergarten children have worked this out, as has Disney. Everyone is aware who their surrogate/assigned princess is and there will be no faking out your schoolyard friends if you are clearly Ariel (red-head) and you try to sneak onto the playground with Cinderella accessories. Any attempt to stray, the entire system crumbles.
Don’t be sucked in by the summer blockbuster movie and all of the school gear that is marketed alongside. By mid-October, your child will refuse to carry any of these essentials and will have no choice but to lug a donated lunch bag from your local bank branch with a logo from whatever fundraiser walk you participated in that summer, along with a thirty year old backpack from when you had your own paper route. Stick to solid colours, no prints or patterns and they’ll last the entire school year.
Food: There are new, trendy, “litterless” lunch boxes and for around $30 you can send your child to school in style or, for the same amount of money, you could have enough brown, paper bags for the entire class, to last through Medical school. Do be sure to pack healthy foods in the sack of your choosing lest you receive the dreaded dingleberry letter from your school reminding you, ‘a well-nourished student is an attentive student.’
Health Canada posts, “Being hungry in school can have a negative impact on student performance. It can lead to irritability, disinterest in the learning situation and an inability to concentrate.” I take this statement very seriously. I once packed my daughter a grilled vegetable sandwich but neglected to remember the grilled vegetables.
The same lesson could be taught at our local parks where I spent the summer shaking my head after witnessing two Grandmothers feeding their grandchildren a snack of bagged butterscotch and chocolate chips. I wondered why they didn’t just spread maple syrup on their palms and let the kids come up for the occasional lick.
Transportation: How to get to and from school is another stress for kids so do plan ahead. On the morning of April 12th, I awoke to my four year old standing nose to nose with me at 5:15 am informing me she had made a decision and was planning to take the bus on the first day of school. Recognizing this conversation could have waited until Sept. 1st, it was obviously weighing on her mind so it is certainly worth a quick dialogue.
Routine: In order to be ready for that first day, I would agree with the experts who suggest you should start your early-to-bed routine a few nights ahead of that first morning rush, or even a few weeks early according to Elizabeth Scott, M.S., but let’s be honest, you should probably set your own alarm for 4:00a.m. that first day if you have any chance at force-feeding your children breakfast, combing their hair, brushing teeth, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, packing lunches, arguing over footwear, dragging a comb through your own nest of hair so you look presentable in front of the other, scrambling neighbourhood parents before shooing the kids out the door.
Consider leaving the crayons at home: Who will be in your child’s class? Buddy on the playground? Trends in clothes, Velcro vs. Lace-up shoes, pencils, markers? These all seem trivial if you do the unthinkable and send crayons in your child’s pencil case. Did you want your little one to be called a “baby” or worse, do you want to be called one by your own child when they return home?
Spend some time teaching your child the basics prior to that first day of JK: I remember the first parent-teacher meeting I had and being informed the only real difficulty my daughter was having was in cutting and pasting. Why was she having trouble? A better question might be, who on earth would give a four year old a pair of scissors? Oh, I was supposed to do that?
When I ask my kids what they think about when I mention “first day of school,” I hear things like, “excitement,” “joy,” “play.” As long as those positive feelings persist, I think we parents can cut ourselves some slack and relax knowing we are sending a happy child off on a great adventure. If their response is, “dark,” “bully,” “goth,” or “vampires” (what is with all the vampires?) we might need to consider working out some of the kinks.
School does seem to have more stress attached to it than ever before but have we adults instilled these additional fears, fuelled this extra tension based on our own incessant need to compete?
September should be a month to look forward to for both parents and kids, as long as our little ones don’t have to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders…..those princess back-packs are really only big enough to hold a litterless lunch bag.