18 tips for first time school goers

18 tips for first time school goers (and their parents!)

Sending your child off to school for the first time can be daunting and emotional for parents. Will they manage without you there to help them? Will the teacher be able to give them the attention they need? As you can’t be there beside them yourself, the next best thing is to prepare them for the challenges they might face so they can go it alone. These top tips for first time school goers will help.

18 tips for first time school goers

  1. An initial visit to the school is a good idea. Meet the principal and the teacher of infants. Show your child the school building, the cloakroom, the classroom, where the toilets are and the playground.
  2. Talk to your child about your own school days. If you haven’t got a funny memory of your first day at school, make one up!
  3. Emphasise the opportunities for making friends and for getting involved in new activities. However, don’t ‘hype up’ school life. Approach this talk with a calm attitude and treat it as normal.
  4. Introduce your child to another junior infant, if possible have her/ him around to play during the holidays. It is important for your child to see some familiar faces on the first day.
  5. Children should be able to put on and take off coats and hang them up, use the toilet and flush it properly, wash their hands and tidy up their crayons and colouring books. Play ‘pretend school’ with your child. Help to practice putting things in and out of the school bag and to open and close their lunchbox.
  6. Teach them to use a handkerchief or tissue, share toys and take turns.
  7. Label all of your children’s clothes and belongings clearly and help them to identify their own belongings.
  8. Your child should know his/her home address. You should also provide the school with the name and telephone number of a person to be contacted if you are not at home. Explain this arrangement to your child.
  9. Allow your children to do things independently.
  10. Encourage confidence by having them dress themselves. Allow time for this in the morning.
  11. Don’t criticise if things are not exactly to your liking, such as buttons that are not perfect or a tie that is slightly crooked.
  12. Praise their efforts at every opportunity.
  13. If children cannot tie laces and needs to change shoes, a velcro fastener will enable them to change quickly and independently.18 tips for first time school goers
  14. Ask yourself whether or not children can manage their clothes by themselves. Zips may be easier than buttons for example. Elasticated trousers can be easier than zips or buttons.
  15. If your child needs to bring a lunch – choose a lunch box and flask that s/he can open easily. Carton drinks are easier and safer than bottles. Again make sure that the school bag can hold these.
  16. Give some thought to lunches too. If your child wants to bring oranges to school, for example, only peeled oranges should be included. Set yogurts may help avoid unnecessary spills.
  17. Try to get your child up a little earlier, as this will ensure a stress-free morning
  18. Create a family calendar that tracks everyone’s activities and commitments. You can put this calendar on the fridge for everyone to see.

Finally, try to relax and enjoy this next step in your child’s life development. Good luck!

For more see the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (www.into)

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Back to school transition
First day at school
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Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.