How to manage the first days (and weeks) of school effectively

by Judith


Judith Holloway works with entrepreneurial mums and helps them to be great in business and in the ‘business’ of parenting.

Here are some of the things I’ve done over the years with my four children to ensure a smooth transition into starting school for the very first time. It’ll help both you and your child so you can look forward to the start of school with pleasure, excitement and anticipation. (P.S. It works with older ones as well, just tweak it!)

It’s very common for children and parents to be a little anxious about starting school. To help reduce anxiety and uncertainty talk about the interesting new experiences and the new friendships your child will have at school.

Try these different strategies to ensure success and help your child (and you) get into the positive groove of school.

1. Preparation is everything. This is just as important for you as well as your child – and it’s well worth the extra effort needed so you’re organised ahead of time.

2. Prepare lunch the night before. Prepare your child’s healthy lunch the night before and keep it in the fridge. At the same time, prepare a healthy snack for break times. Make sure you pack enough for your child’s appetite. In the morning, all you need to do is to pop the lunch containers in the lunch box and you’re ready to go.

3. Lay out school uniform. Before bedtime, help your child to lay out their school uniform in the order they’re putting it on – and talk about the order too. Your child can also put their clean shoes by the front door so everything is ready. Sorted.

4. Be an early bird. Get up 15 – 30 minutes earlier! Wake the children up 5 -10 minutes earlier than usual. This means you can have a relaxed, calm, healthy, balanced breakfast and be ready to leave for school on time (or be even early). It can be very scary for your child to walk into a class that has already started for the day.

5. Healthy breakfast. Even if you don’t have a breakfast, it’s important your child begins their day with a nutritious breakfast. A new routine, a whole new day and new activities will burn up their energy. A hungry child will lose concentration and become tired, and yes, very grumpy too.

6. Focus on fun and the positives. If you take your child into the classroom have a look around and point out things your child likes and enjoys, such as the fish tank, drawing stuff for art or the reading corner and the books. If you are stressing out and saying how much you’ll miss them – your negative energy will be passed onto them. Talk to other parents if you need support. Your child has enough to worry about on their first day and weeks without thinking about you. Be strong. For them.

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7. Upset, then ask for help. If your child gets upset, acknowledge their feelings, “I know you’re upset and don’t want me to leave, I bet other children are too and don’t want their mums to leave. Let’s think about what will help you feel better.”
Ask the teacher for help if your child won’t let go of you. The teacher will have lots of experience with this. You could say to your child “Let’s say hello to your teacher together. She will take good care of you,” and do a swift hand over.
If your child misses you a lot, let him/her choose a small, special object to take into school to remind him/her you are ‘there’ and thinking about him/her.
Make a swift exit. A short reassuring goodbye encourages independence and is more useful to your child than a long drawn out one.

8. Timing is everything. Be on time for your child at the end of the school day. A few minutes late for school pick up can seem an eternity for a small child particularly if they’re not feeling sure of themselves.

9. Snack boost. Take a small healthy snack and a drink with you for your child to have at the end of school. Children are often ‘starving’ after school. Eating a little healthy snack will reduce incidents of bad behaviour due to hunger.

10. Be flexible. Your child may be tired from all the exertions of the school day so give them time to settle in and find their stride. Keep to routines after school that allow rest and free play. Keep after school activities to a minimum e.g. clubs and shopping trips. Your child will be tired after school and may find it difficult to cope with activities or trips to begin with and that’s when unwanted behaviour can start to rear its ugly head.

11. Did nothing. Some children come out of school wanting to excitedly tell you every last little detail. Others don’t. They like time to themselves before they want company and talk to you about it. Make sure you have time after school if they need it.

Listen and don’t ask too many questions. Children will talk when they’re ready and bedtime is usually a good time to listen. I found in the early days of settling them into school I would get them ready 10 minutes earlier than usual to account for these lovely conversations about their day and we’d still be on time for the rest of the bedtime routine.

12. Early to bed. Get into a really good evening routine. You know your child will be tired so make a few allowances: have an early dinner, have some extra cuddle time, special reading time. Start the bedtime routine earlier than usual and make sure they get to bed possibly 30 minutes earlier than they would usually so you don’t get any unwanted, tired, monster behaviour.

13. Friends. It’s great to have your child’s new friends over to play. Have them over one at a time and for a short time at first. It’s better to have a short successful one hour playtime than a long, whingey, whiney, children falling out and arguing type of playtime!

14. Stick to the timetable. Organise food and drinks according to the school’s timetabled breaks. Talk to and explain to your child that the small snack items are for the morning break and the lunch items are for the longer break, i.e. lunchtime.


15. Preparation is everything. Use a lunch box that keeps food cool and label all items. Let your child help you prepare healthy lunches and drinks, the night before. It’s a great time to talk about what is and what isn’t healthy food.
Pack food that is ready and easy to eat and it’s not too messy. Pre-cut items such as carrots, celery and pre-peeled oranges are ideal. If I didn’t have small apples, I cut an apple into 4 segments, took out the seeds, placed the apple pieces in lemon water (stops them from going brown) for a few minutes then popped them in a box. Ready to go fruit.
Drinking water could be flavoured with a slice of lemon or orange.
The night before, freeze a water bottle then in the morning put it in the lunch box. It helps keep the food cool. Your child has a cool drink too. I used to do this with squash too and the children loved it.
Try out different sorts of breads such as wholemeal, granary, rolls, pitta, muffins for variety.
Make sure your child can open (without help) any containers, packets or tubes in their lunchbox.

Starting school is a big step for children (and parents too) and it takes time to get used to it and into a really good routine. It can be tiring for your children as perhaps they’ve been used to having a nap during the day.

As the days turn into weeks and your child has settled in, and you’ve got used to it, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Well done, you’ve done it!

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Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and let’s get a conversation started.

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