Preparing your child for the first day of childcare or school can be a daunting task physically, financially and emotionally. If you are preparing for school you may possibly need a whole new wardrobe of school clothes, shoes, a hat and school bag which will be filled with pencils, books, a lunch box and drink bottle. For childcare you will need similar items which of course all need to be labelled including spare cloths, undies or nappies and possibly bedding if your child is sleeping during their stay. If it is a young baby you will also need a supply of bottles with either expressed milk or formula. Not only do you have to be prepared with all these requirements but you will also need to prepare yourselves as parents and your child for the emotional changes you will face.
Your child needs you to be calm and confident. To give them the confidence that this is ok and this is a normal part of growing up. It is better for your child if you do not show any fear or anxiety. If you are portraying any hesitation about them starting school or being away from you your child will pick these up and also become fearful and anxious. This is not a good start. This will also include when you drop your child off. Be positive. Walk confidently as you enter the premises. You may like to stay awhile with your child till he/she finds a friend or carer or introduce them to another child of a similar age so that they can help each other adjust to their new environment.
If possible prepare your child in advance by visiting the childcare or school, take a walk around the premises, through the playground and their room, and introduce them to their teacher. Talk about the things they will be going to do, things they may be learning, and the new friends they will make. It is often helpful if you already know some of your child’s friends who will be attending the same childcare or school, if not talk about the new friends they will soon be making.
A good way to do this is to meet other parents and have them visit your home or join them in a local park for play with their child. Schools are often very happy to help you organise a parents gathering.
If your child is going to school they will need plenty of sleep to be alert in the classroom. A child should be having 12 hours sleep at night to help their little brains and bodies develop and to assist their immune systems recharge. Remember they will be very tired after their big day at childcare or school. They will also have burned up lots of calories and will probably be hungry therefore have healthy snacks and a fresh drink with you when you pick them up after school or have an early dinner and a piece of fruit before an early bed.
It is not always easy to arrange your new schedule. You may need to be up earlier than usual to prepare the family and get out of the house on time without too much of a rush. Prepare as much as you can the night before. Lay out the clothes that need to be worn, put the socks with the shoes. Shoes should have been worn in before wearing them to childcare or school otherwise your child may have to contend with the discomfort of blisters as well as nerves on his/her first day.
Pack the school bag with all items bar the perishables and put the bag on the kitchen counter ready to pack with the lunch and snacks before you leave. For school goers, it might be wise to pack a spare pare of undies and socks in case of accidents. Go through the childcare or school check list making sure all items have been put into the bag. Give your child an early night before childcare or school starts.
Mums, if this is the first time you and your child have had a day apart you may find that you have separation anxiety. This is quite normal. If you are a single child family and a stay at home mum you may have to prepare yourself for a quiet home or you may be looking forward to returning to full or part time work this can help you to keep your mind of the fact that your little one is no longer around. It may help if you talk things over with your partner an understanding friend or family member.
For those who have little ones still at home you may need to plan their sleeps around the drop offs and pickups. Younger siblings often learn to sleep to and from school in the car or pram. It is not always easy for mums to find someone to babysit sleeping younger siblings but once you get to know other parents whose children attend the same school you may be able to share these trips.
With children at childcare or school you will have time to enjoy more one-on-one time with those still at home but remember to give lots of attention to your childcare or school child when they arrive home as they may feel left out and in need of extra reassurance and attention.
Allow time at the end of each day to chat about what happened, you will learn the most on the way home from childcare or school so a chat about the day yours and theirs, in the car or walking should be daily routine. There may be lots of questions that you cannot answer. Don’t be afraid to ask their teacher. Have a children’s dictionary and atlas close at hand - you will find these a valuable source of information to help answer some of their new questions. Home-work can start early in some schools but if not you should be reading daily to them already. They can soon start to help read the books you enjoy before bed. With an older child who may return with home work, try not to do it for them. Their school work is for them to learn not to show how great an artist their mum is or how wiz bang dad is on computer layouts. They will also be full of new knowledge, be interested and share what you know too.
The first day at childcare or school is an exciting time and a milestone to remember. Photos are a great way to remember this memorable day. Your little one is growing up, the apron strings are being stretched.