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School has started - why am I unsettled?

19th February 2020

By Tracy Blanchard
Acting Student Support Services Coordinator
Townsville Catholic Education

My only child started Prep this year and I finally experienced, first hand, what so many parents deal with each year. Starting at a new school is inevitable at some point, whether it is starting prep, moving into high school or relocating and changing schools. 

I recently read that it takes approximately 6 weeks for students to fully adjust to a new school. This made me feel much better, considering it is only week 4 and I (as the parent) am still adjusting to my five year old starting ‘big school’.

You may have done the trial run, been to the transition days, accompanied your child to their first day - but what now:

  • Manage your own emotions first: As a parent you will no doubt feel a range of emotions regarding how your child is settling in. This is exacerbated if your child finds it difficult to adjust to change. Avoid sharing your worries with your child and encourage your child to recount positive experiences through their day.  For prep students it is a big step up from Kindy - expectations, routines and general daily structure have changed. This may lead to big emotions at the end of the day, which can test us as we may be feeling the stress of our work day. Where possible I have found it helpful to do a quiet or relaxing activity with my child when we get home - a quick game of cards or a book - before starting the busy evening routine of showers, dinner and everything else. 
  • Be involved with what your child is learning about at school: Whenever I ask my child ‘what did you learn today’, I get the response ‘I don’t remember’. I am lucky that I am provided with an email each week from the Prep teacher with topics being covered in each subject. This has helped me ask more specific questions like ‘what number are you learning this week?’, ‘what activities did you do with that number?’ and I get more detailed responses.
  • Stock up on lunchbox supplies and prepare things the night before! This is drilled into all of us from our own school years, however I never really followed this until my child started school this year. Mornings are busy enough as it is and everyone is on a timeline to get to school, work, appointments. The more you can get prepared the night before (lunches, uniform, bag, water bottles etc) the smoother the next morning runs. Working against the clock in the morning automatically heightens stress levels and it inevitably spreads across everyone in the house. I feel I am much more relaxed when I get to work when it has been a smooth morning.
  • Make sure your child is well rested: My experience with being a Prep mother so far is that meltdowns and tantrums tend to escalate near the end of the week as my child is exhausted after a full week of school. I have found that turning the television off earlier and encouraging other quiet play activities, after dinner has helped my little one fall asleep faster when it is time to turn off the lights.
  • Get involved, where possible, with other parents: It is sometimes difficult to meet other parents due to my full time work but I think this is vital to create more connections for both parents and children. This is an area that I will be working on this year since relationships lead to a feeling of belonging and that is what we should always strive for, for ourselves and our children.
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