Advice and tips for parents of a child starting primary school
January 28, 2013 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Hi there - our 5-and-a-bit year old is starting primary school next week. He is a bright, caring and generally happy type - a "good kid" - but I was wondering if there's anything, as parents, we should maybe say or do before the big day to provide him with "good vibes" about this next step in his life. He is looking forward to school and has no problems there. We are taking him out for a special dinner on the weekend to celebrate him going to school as well. But are there any experiences, tips or other things that have worked well for fellow MeFites when their children have started school? Thanks so much.
posted by chris88 to Human Relations (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Don't make a big deal about it? Kids generally adapt well, although the first week or so will be tiring.

Although I used to be a teacher, when it came time for us to enroll our kids in school, it felt really weird. Someone else had responsibility for them, and we didn't call the shots anymore. That was the biggest mental adjustment I had to make.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:59 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

The best advice I got, when my daughter started last September, was to not do anything extra the first six weeks of school. No playdates, no parties, no after school activities (we kept one we'd been doing for a year, but didn't add any extra). Having plenty of at home time to recharge and relax really helped her feel better and be ready for school each day. Good luck!
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:18 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Former K teacher here. Make the drop off short, sweet, and happy. Give him a hug and tell him you will see him at the end of the day and that you hope he has a great day. Don't let the separation moment linger and become anxious, and do your best not to betray anxiety yourself - he could pick up on it and get triggered to be anxious himself.

Expect more sleep early in the year. The socializing alone is exhausting, especially for kids who didn't come from full-day preschool.
posted by Miko at 5:29 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you know any other families who will be going to the school? If he knows anyone there, that will help to have a familiar face - even if they are not in the same class or year. My 5 year old started last september, and knew a couple of kids but they were in a different class to him. A good friend of his who is a year older stopped by to say hi to him, and I could see it helped him.
posted by Joh at 8:26 PM on January 28, 2013

And if you don't know any families, see if the PTA organises a playdate for incoming students. Our PTA did this and it was helpful for parents and kids!
posted by Joh at 8:27 PM on January 28, 2013

One child at my daughter's school got all weepy at the first dropoff. His mother did zilch to make this a short, sweet transition, and in fact seemed entirely fulfilled by how painful this was for him. She spent -- I am not kidding here -- almost the entire first day sitting with him in the coat room, and then most of each day for the next two weeks.

One day his father dropped him off, as the mother needed to be some place else (hopefully her therapist's). The kid started his weepy, wailing thing, his father pointed him to the room and said, "Look, you're afraid of going in a beautiful room full of happy kids and loving teachers. I don't see any need to protect you from that." He kissed his son good-bye, and left. The son looked stunned, but after a few seconds closed his mouth, walked in the classroom, and was fine thereafter.
posted by Capri at 8:37 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with the comment about keeping it low key. The bigger deal you make of it, the more anxiety you might create about it. It is a big deal to you, and rightfully so, but keep that mostly to yourself.
posted by Dansaman at 9:29 PM on January 28, 2013

This advice is in case your son has difficulties or in case you expect difficulties.

You don't have to do this alone and you can and should involve the teacher.

Our daughter has no problem starting new things and seems to fit in anywhere. Our son takes some time (up to a couple of weeks) in a new group. He needs to form an emotional connection with the teacher (or responsible adult) in order to feel comfortable in a new situation. If you son is like ours, please talk to the teacher to discuss this before hand. Let the teacher know that he needs a bit of extra attention to help him with the transition. This is completely normal for some kids. In this case, keep the drop off short and sweet, but try not to leave him alone - make a handover to the teacher.

A specific thing that always helps our son is to give him a 'magic ball' which is a shiny marble to hold onto (we have a box of them at home) and keep in his pocket. We tell him that touch and feel the magic ball if he is a little sad or misses us and we will think nice thoughts about him. We didn't pull out the magic ball until he was struggling a bit starting Kindergarten but it worked wonders.
posted by jazh at 2:33 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Watch for odd behavior/meltdowns after school. This happens with both my elementary school children. For the younger she is often really hungry as she's eaten lunch 5 hours before and needs to be stuffed with food immediately. There is a lot of paying attention and keeping it all together during the day (quiet in the hall! hands on desk! papers in pile! milk ticket in right bucket! don't talk! answer questions! stay in line!) that is exhausting to many personalities and manifest in different ways at home. My older one may be really snarky and mean and I realize usually later that something has happened that day that he needs to talk about. So watch for adjustment to home at the end of the day - he may need food, to talk, or just some quiet time to not answer your questions. Try to find what works for you.

It is nice of you to think ahead, most likely everything will go just great! Good luck with the exciting transition!
posted by kimmae at 7:13 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

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