What I wished I’d known before my child started school

Maria with daughter Sophia

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Have you spent the summer sewing in nametags and trying to get your head around the fact your ‘baby’ is off to big school? Mum of two Maria Lally was in exactly the same position last summer – here’s what she wished she’d known back then…

They pick up on your mood

If you’ve been (loudly and in front of your little one) telling everybody you’re ‘dreading’ your child starting school or you feel like you’re ‘losing your baby’, chances are they won’t be that thrilled come September.

In the lead up to my daughter Sophia, now five, starting school last year I kept telling her how exciting it was going to be and how much fun I had during my own school days. On her first day I dropped her off calmly, confidently, gave her a big hug and wished her well… then I went home and sobbed into my coffee. I may have found the whole starting school thing heart-wrenching, but Sophia never knew that. She just thought the whole thing was going to be a blast.

Teach your child life skills

Knowing how to get themselves dressed and undressed, doing up their shoes and using a knife and fork is just as important for school-starters as the alphabet (more so in fact). So spend the summer practising this stuff so they don’t get flustered during their first PE lesson.

Don’t compare your child to their classmates

It’s tempting to worry (or turn into a home-tutor-hiring Tiger Mum) but stop yourself

Just like the baby in your NCT class who rolled over shortly after birth, counted to 10 before their first birthday and never, ever had a tantrum, there will also be children in your child’s class who will write neater, add up quicker and read better than them. It’s tempting to worry (or turn into a home-tutor-hiring Tiger Mum) but stop yourself.

Some children pick things up quickly, others take longer. Some children are messy writers but brilliant at maths. Others lag behind in Reception but are the brightest in their class by year two. So don’t worry, don’t listen to other mums and don’t pressure your child. And remember that traits like confidence, sociability and happiness are often better indicators of future success than academic ability.

Don’t worry about their friends

One minute somebody is ‘being mean’ to them, the next they’re best friends

Children change their best friends about 100 times in the first year of school. One minute somebody is ‘being mean’ to them, the next they’re best friends. When your child first comes home from school and tells you their friend ran away from them in the playground your heart will twist itself in knots. It’s worse than any sleepless night or toddler tantrum (which will suddenly seem like breezy memories).

You’ll picture your poor child walking aimlessly around the playground for the rest of their school years. And you’ll picture yourself dangling said friend by their ankles the next time you see them (No? Just me?).

Instead, take a deep breath and tell yourself that your little darling will probably run away from their friend at some point too (if they haven’t already). And the child you want to dangle by their ankles? You’ll have to face them – and their parents – for the next several years.

So stay out of playground battles, teach your child about the ups and downs of friendships and chalk it up to the trials of the playground.

Your child won’t be the only one feeling lonely in the playground

There were the glam mums who looked super-groomed at 8.30am

When I first stood in the sea of mums at drop off or pick up I felt similar to how I imagine Sophia felt in her first few weeks of school… excited, but a little overwhelmed.

There were the mums who seemed to breeze through the whole process (they usually had older children and had done it all before). There were the glam mums who looked super-groomed at 8.30am (while I had my coat zipped up over my pyjama top) and the mums who all seemed to know each other.

But then I looked a little closer and saw many more mums like me – unsure and a little frazzled by the whole thing. Then I discovered the super-glam and seemingly super-confident mums also had their own worries about school.

Now I love the school gate because it’s home to some of the loveliest friends I’ve ever made. And these days I even managed to get dressed properly before leaving the house…

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