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What to REALLY expect when your child starts school

There is much written about how to prepare your child for starting school, but not so much on how to prepare the parents.

So, as I have some ‘insider knowledge’ of what to expect - as a parent myself and through experiencing many a child starting school in my career as a nanny, i thought I would share. I don’t mean what to expect on their first day though, rather, what it is actually like once your child has started school and what to really expect during the first term, because, for a lot of parents, there are some unexpected surprises...

The first thing I can tell you, is that your child will be tired. You might be expecting tiredness, but when I say tired, I mean so tired that if they have made it through the school day without catching some zzzs', they will be falling asleep in their tea.

This new level of tiredness can be a shock, you might find that your child suddenly asks to go to bed, but as they become used to their new life as a school child, it will get better - usually by half term.

My advice would be to keep out of school activities to a minimum during the first half term, where possible. This means being mindful of not accepting too many play dates or having too much planned over the weekend - this will help them get through their school day. You may also find that you need to bring bedtime forward. As you did when they were babies, follow their cues.

Tiredness will also be the contributing factor for other unexpected things.

Emotions can be all over the place with a four-or five- year old at the best of times, but

tiredness and a big life change, means that one day they can be very happy and the next they are very sad and emotional - It can be a bit of a lottery as to which you will be experiencing from day to day.

This can lead to some separation anxiety kicking in. Some children have this from the start, but for some, it can be delayed as, along with the tiredness, the reality that this is now how it is, becomes apparent.

My advice – be consistent with their routine, don’t hang about at drop off and plan some 1:1 time with them - something to look forward to, after school or on the weekend. Also, keep talking things through with them, giving praise when they have showed bravery, and of course, modelling resilience yourself.

Being consistent with routine can be hard when they are tired. Getting out the door on time can take longer, so having school bags packed the night before, lunches made and uniform out ready to put on will help. I have also found that the use of a timer to count down, an absolute winner. We use our Alexa device, but any timer works. It really does save on you having to ‘nag’- which, let’s be honest, is not helpful for anyone - and ensures that you are not late.

Tiredness and feeling overwhelmed can also make some children regress - think meltdowns, forgetting to use the toilet, unable to get themselves dressed – but, as they become used to their new routine this will stop and you will suddenly find yourself dealing with some ‘sassiness’. The key here is to be empathetic. Keep boundaries consistent but be realistic with your expectations of them.

After school, you will want to know how their day has gone, but the reality is, they will just answer “can’t remember”’ to any questions. My advice is to wait for them to tell you. I usually find mine open up at teatime or at bedtime.

Of course, like with everything parenting, all children are different, and what one child experiences, may not be the same for another – something to think about when talking with other parents.

Along with tiredness and all that brings, Parentmail will take over your inbox and you will need to keep on top of all the school admin that will be pinging its way to your email.

I strongly recommend that you invest in a family calendar, especially if you have more than one child at school, to keep up with who is doing what and when. This will also really help your child if they are anxious.

My other top tip is to set up a separate email address just for school mail. This will help stop the emails getting lost amongst your personal and work emails and you can spend time each day checking at a time that is convenient.

You may find that it is you that is emotional and will find it hard to relinquish some control. You will see your little one growing up, but while you will miss what has gone before, I can guarantee that you will enjoy all of what is to come - Well most of it, anyway!

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