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Starting school - How to navigate the school gates as a parent

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Your child starting school is a big deal - and not just for your child.

Navigating the school gates as a parent can be just like navigating school back in the day, trying to find where best you fit in and who will end up being your soul mate of the school gates.

There are the parents who are always early and front of the queue, the mums who are always in gym wear, the mums who are immaculately dressed and made up, the parents who are always rushing in late with the kids still eating breakfast, there are the mums who rock up in their pj’s, seemingly just rolled out of bed, and then there are the ‘cliquey’ set – the ones where you have to pass some unknown test to be part of the group, or, to even raise a smile from them - or so it would seem.

So, if you have starting school anxiety all over again, read on for my tips on how to navigate the school gates as a parent.

Smile and the whole world smiles with you…

Ok, perhaps not strictly true, but if you show a smile to those around you, at least one will smile back and potentially strike up a conversation with you, so make sure that you leave your ‘resting bitch face’ at home and flash your best smile instead.

Suss out who your child plays with

Your child will likely have made besties by the end of their first day, so ask them who their friends are and get them to point them out in the playground. Avoid stalking their parents on social media to begin with and strike up a conversation while waiting for your child at pick up instead.

You do you

Chances are, the other mums who are dressed in their active wear, are only active while on the school run and likely have no intention of working up a sweat at any point during the day so don't get a complex that you need to join the gym. Equally, those who are dressed and made up like they have just stepped out of a glossy magazine, have probably got up an hour earlier than you, so unless you want to add an extra hour onto your morning, don’t feel obliged to do the same. You just do you and don’t worry about having the same ‘uniform’ as the others…you’re not actually back at school, remember?

Join the PTFA – After doing your research

Much is said about the PTFA, but while some are full of wannabe dictators who like to feel they are far more superior than you, many are not like that at all and it can actually be a great way to meet other parents, while at the same time supporting your child’s school. Before signing yourself up, do your research though and see what you will be signing yourself up for.

Make sure you are on the class FB page

There is always a Facebook page or WhatsApp group for the class parents to join, and while it might seem a bit daunting, you can stay up to date with what is going on and not miss out on getting to know the other parents when a drinks night is planned.

Be aware though, if you join the WhatsApp group chat, anything of importance will get lost amongst the noise of the other 30+ parents who are in there. Set your WhatsApp so that you can't be added, but if it is too late and you don't want to do the WhatsApp 'Walk of shame' and leave, mute notifications and archive.

You are not alone

You will not be the only parent feeling a bit anxious, and this is important to remember. Other parents will also have their own worries and insecurities and over time you will see that. The saying ‘never judge a book by a cover’ can be true at the school gates, so don’t let your first impressions cloud your perspective for the entire school year.

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