I am now mum to a school aged child. I find this really astounding that I have a child who goes to school! It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was at school, but time flies and here we are!
Over the summer Joe and I spent a lot of time carefully and gently preparing Violet for school. She was not looking forward to leaving pre-school and the thought of going somewhere new with new people essentially terrified her. Also there was the fact that none of her close friends from pre-school were going to her school. I felt immense pressure to strike the right balance getting her school-ready mentally whilst not freaking her out to the point she would refuse to even entertain the idea!
The school were really great with the preparations. She had a 90 minute session in her classroom with her teachers and peers in July whilst us parents were ushered to a separate building to await feedback. She hesitated at the door but somehow agreed to stay without upset. I walked away from the classroom in amazement. As I collected her she seemed relaxed and happy. I could not have asked for a better outcome and told her how proud I was!
One of the mums set up 3 meet-ups in the local playground so that the children could familiarise themselves with eachother and hopefully form the beginnings of some important friendships. Undoubtedly Violet gained some confidence from her little brother being there – she likes to be protective of him when out and about – and again she amazed me by playing a little with some of the girls.
We chatted to Violet about what her teacher would be like. We almost created an image of her in Violet’s head and talked about her as if they were already friends. We were trying to make her teacher familiar to her despite them only having met briefly. The hope was that this key person in her life would be someone she already liked and felt comfortable with.
Then there were practical things like getting herself dressed and going to the toilet independently, being able to carry her plate with food on it and being able to use a knife. All things that for a summer-born child are quite challenging.
We shopped for her uniform together and let her choose her own shoes. We were hoping that it allowed her to feel like she was in control of the process rather than having it done to her. She was genuinely excited about wearing her school uniform and proudly showed it to friends and family.
Everything seemed to be going really well. She had gone from huge anxiety and worry about school to more acceptable and understandable nerves about starting a new phase in her life. Joe and I kept putting ourselves in her shoes to try and imagine how she was feeling. We talked positively, were up-beat but also discussed her concerns with true empathy. It wasn’t right to just dismiss her genuine emotions as ‘being silly’.
The first day of school came. Violet was prepared. We were prepared. And I’ll fill you in on the start of infant school in another post.
Have your kids started at a new school this year? Did you feel like you had to go through the same level of careful preparations as us? How have they settled into their new routines?