Thankfully Justin Coulson (dad to five girls with a PhD in Family Psychology - and yes, he's Tim's brother) offered to share his knowledge with me. I told him that I want to be completely prepared. More specifically, I want to know how to prepare Che. Here's what he had to say:
1. Prep the Practical - In the weeks leading up to a school's commencement it's a great idea to get some routine arranged around mornings and how they should run. Help your child acclimatise to the appropriate wake-up time, let him know what he needs to wear and how he needs to dress and practice being all set to go on time. Do a full-on dress rehearsal one or two days prior to school including packing lunch and bags, putting on the uniform - the whole lot. It reduces anxiety and it assures that everything is purchased, prepped and in position for the first day.
2. Take a Tour - Hopefully by now most children will have had an opportunity to visit their new school. If you have missed out visit the school the week before term starts. It's likely that the teachers will be showing up and most would be glad to give you and your little one a tour. Familiarity with the school environment can make a big difference on day one.
3. Create Courage - As parents we can talk to our children about what courage is and give them role models to follow. We can teach the value of doing hard things and being persistent. And we can equip them with the courage to 'try on' new ideas, new challenges and new circumstances.
4. Develop Discernment - Ok, I know that's a big word - probably one that your child has never heard before. But the capacity to discern what is good and makes us feel 'right' from what is less good, and makes us feel 'bad' or 'icky' is essential. Let's face it though, school is a place where a range of experiences will occur, some of which will be less positive than others. To some extend discernment comes from experience. But not entirely. With your guidance, preparation, and ongoing communication your children can will learn what to take in from their school environment and what to leave out.
5. Maintain a Love of Learning - Our children are generally curious, inquisitive and excited to learn. However, we find ourselves at the end of the day exhausted, focused on routine and taking the shortest route to the pillow! It's often at this time that our children come to us with questions about ants, how cows are made or why the scissors won't cut through the coffee table. Our responses at this time might be directed towards giving the quickest and most convenient answers. But research shows that our children love to find out the answers for themselves, using us as guides and for support rather than an encyclopedia of knowledge. The best way to maintain their love of learning is to respond to their questions with enthusiasm and curiosity - even when you don't feel like it.
Justin recently wrote a fabulous piece about cyber-safety for children...it's definitely worth a read.
I think what I find most challenging about school is the influence that will, in one way or another, challenge Daniel and my parenting values. I'm guessing it will start with lunchbox contents and I'm expecting it to progress to television shows, toys, video games etc. I hope Che is curious, I trust that he knows what's right and wrong and I look forward to the discussions that stem from the playground.
Mums, what did you find most challenging about the first year of school?
In the next few days I'll be posting some beautiful stories from school mums - emotional, heartfelt, you'll-need-a-tissue stories...