After dealing with Covid lockdowns and the usual holidays, having the kids head back to school provides a small light at the end of a never ending tunnel.
People without kids may think that school is the tunnels end, but we know better don’t we?
School comes with new friends, outings, sports teams, fundraisers, uniforms, BYOD, homework, bus trips, teacher only days.. to list a few.
Every day is different and if you have more than one child then trying to keep on top of who is going where and when, and what do they need and ‘How much!’ can be a challenge.
So how do you keep on top of it all?
Make a plan... now!
What you choose to do will depend on the age of your children but make them as much a part of things as you can. It is never too early to learn to plan, be responsible and show consideration for others.
Below is a list of questions to ask yourself before school starts, which should help you to avoid some of the pitfalls and challenges which at I have come up against in my time.
Feel free to add more.
When do your children start back at school?
Are their days just for new starters?
What are the schools term dates?
How early is your child allowed to get to school?
Is there an before and after hours club?
Where do you take your child if your running late?
How is your child getting to school?
If traveling by bus, where does it pick up and when?
Are bus tickets needed?
How are you going to keep on top of school based communications?
Who is responsible for remembering important dates?
Where are these dates recorded?
Who chooses what’s for lunch?
Who makes the lunches?
When are the lunches made?
Does the school have a uniform?
Does last year’s uniform still fit?
Does your child need new school shoes?
Is there a set day and time you do your laundry?
Who is responsible for putting uniforms and PE kits out for washing?
What happens if something misses being washed?
Are there funds available to pay for extra trips?
If your child wants to go on a trip do they need to earn their spot in some way?
If you have more than one child, can you afford to treat them the same?
Does your family have the time to attend weekend sports and after school training sessions?
What equipment would they need for their sport of choice?
Do they have any friends play the same sports?
Where can you find the stationery list?
Do any of your child’s classes need special equipment?
Is your child’s school bag going to last another year?
Once the term is underway having some form of evening and morning routine helps lift a lot of the everyday tension which can take place. Talk about your thoughts and your reasons with the family, listen to your children’s ideas and be clear about the expectations and the consequences if these are not met.
I’m sure you agree that there is nothing worse than being told what to do, as parents we can forget that we are there to help educate our children as much as the school teachers are, we are not there to do everything for them, if we do they will never learn. We should be there to support, guide and assist.
Things which just need to be done.
Having thing a list of tasks written down and on display, can help you to reduce family conflict. Rather than you telling them, over and over, what they need to do and when, you can just remind them to look at the list. This reduces that nagging concern that you are nagging!
My husband used to print off and laminate, a copy of the children’s time table for them, so it would last more than just a few days. Each evening we would encourage them to review what they were up to the next day, so all the resources could be found that night, as the early morning call of ‘I can’t find…’ is one which most parents dread. Even if it is a little last minute the option of putting the week old PE great through the wash that night, rather than subject their friends to the slightly organic smelling gear, is at least a choice that they can make.
Keeping communication channels open
Having a daily debrief used to work well for our family. We would have at least one sit down meal a day, where we were together and could discuss whatever we felt like. Before we started was a great time to remind our children to check their bags for school notes, left-over lunches or smelly PE gear. You may find that the ‘how was your day?’ question, might not generate as much information as you thought it would. If this is the case then try some more specific ones.
‘Please tell me what made you laugh or smile today?’
‘Please tell me what made you annoyed or angry today?’
‘If you could change one thing about your day, what would it be, and why?’
‘Is there anything coming up that we can support you with?
There are a couple of important rules to this.
1. Everyone in the family gets asked, and has the opportunity to answer, each question, if they are happy to.
2. No comments or judgments are to be made on what is said.
If your child shares something which concerns you then feel free to ask if they are happy to talk about it a little more, or offer to chat with them later, if they want to.
Monitoring emails, or safely storing notes from school is the other challenge. They seem to arrive thick and fast, especially around the start of school. There are requests for school donations, invoices for printing and trips, dates for teacher only days, dates for trips, dates for school sports trials and dates for games.
Having a dedicated folder/place which they can be moved to helps make finding them again later a lot easier. When I received emails with dates of events, then I would forward them to my work email, and add them to my work Outlook calendar, as this was checked every day. At home we had a year planner on a pin board, and would make a note which everyone could see.
Though school is supposedly free, there are still fees attached which can catch us all out. My suggestion to you all, if you can, is to put a little aside each month into a special school account. We set some up when our children were in Primary school and they have made the last few years a lot less stressful. Even if you only put aside a few dollars, they will build up and help lessen the impact of those larger bills.
See its all simple really, no stress at all!