While many parents are only too grateful when the back-to-school advertisements start appearing, the start of a new school year can be a traumatic time for many children.

New teachers, new classmates, new subjects or even a brand new school all have their own stresses and strains. Remember how you cried when your best friend from Grade 2 ended up in a different Grade 3 class? Or the time you left your lunchbox at home, someone stole your tracksuit top and the class bully kicked you in the shins?

Tips for parents at the start of the new school year

Be an early bird

Summer holidays are long and sleeping rather late is probably part of their routine by now. Get an early start on the first day (and an early night before), so that there’s time for a decent breakfast, as well as the inevitable traffic jams on the first school day.

Have a dress rehearsal

Sort out that school uniform at least a week before the start of term. The uniform stockists have a horrible habit of running out of school shirts and socks three days before the start of term. Get the kids dressed in their full uniforms a few days before school starts to make sure everything is in order.

Pack a healthy lunch

An interesting lunchbox goes a long way to brighten up the first day. Being in back at school and forced into a routine can be a shock after such a long holiday. Favourite sandwiches, fresh fruit, and a special snack could do wonders for morale.

Phone a friend

Especially if a child is in a new school, take trouble to get hold of another child in the same class. Ask around at work, or even phone the school secretary. Things are so much less daunting if a child at least recognises one other person in the class.

Stop and drop

Drop off your kids or walk them to school for the first few days. It shows them you care. If a child has to go to a new school or go by means of a new mode of transport, it might be wise to accompany them the first few times until they are familiar with the route.

Grade 1 blues

If your child is going to school for the first time, keep your emotions under control, difficult as it may be. The child is stressed enough without having to cope with floods of tears from parents. Also, your tears may also convey the message that school is a really frightening place where nasty things happen.

General first day blues

Many children come home from the first day with a list of complaints about all and sundry. Don’t take them too seriously, unless the same complaints still surface a week later. Remember what you felt like after your first day back at work.

Don’t go on a stationery spending spree

Many teachers have specific requirements when it comes to stationery, so you might be spending money unnecessarily. Check first before going to town. Basics like a pen, pencil, eraser, ruler, sharpener and some coloured pencils should suffice for the first day.

Knowledge is power

Alert the school and the teacher if your child has any medical condition such as diabetes or asthma. They should also know if your child has any problems with hearing or sight.

Back off

If you keep hovering or intervening in minor classroom tiffs your child has with other children, the message you are sending is that the world is a dangerous place and that you have no faith in your child’s ability to fight his or her own battles.

Prepare for the book covering marathon

Older children can and should do this for themselves, but younger ones might need considerable assistance from you. Buy enough paper, plastic and adhesive tape in advance.

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