First Day Back to School: Parents Ultimate Guide for a Smooth Start

In preparation for a good first day back to school, we sought advice from local teachers  who regularly engage with us during incursions. We were blown away by their invaluable insights to help parents ready their kids for learning success.

Ensuring children are ready to learn involves meeting their basic needs. Starting from the foundation, here are seven tips for a seamless back-to-school transition:

1. Re-establish Routines before the first day back to school. 

Top of the list is to make sure they are getting enough sleep, the general consensus was 8 hours. Set up a before bed, after school and before school routine and when you get the classroom timetable, put it somewhere where everyone can see it. Get back to regular eating at regular times and pull back on sugary treats and up the vegetables.

2. Breakfast Matters

Provide a balanced breakfast for sustained energy throughout the day. Anna Sangster from Perth Fertility Clinic explains the impact of a bowl of cereal or white toast on blood sugar levels.  What happens is these foods give us a rush of energy and then deplete almost at the time when school starts.  For more of her tips on how to ensure brain energy is sustained for the whole day click here

3. Mindful Lunch Prep

While we are on the subject of food, there was LOTS of talk from teachers about lunch.  Teachers warn of overfilling the lunch box and giving kids too much which can cause kids to miss out on play.  Many kids also worry they will get in trouble if they don’t eat it all.

Just cause it looks good on social media does not mean it will work.  Before the first day back to school, make the food, put it in the lunch and get kids to eat it to see if they actually work in the lunch boxes and does not spill when your child opens it.  If the food requires re heating it is not going to work. Teachers and their aides have only two hands each and at lunch they need to eat so they can keep up the momentum and their energy. 

Get your kids to practice opening and closing their drink bottle and make sure they know how to refill their it.  Lastly, check if your child can open the packets in lunch boxes.  If not, cut the packet and contain it in the lunch box.

back to school

4. Make sure they have what supplies they need and can use it

These ones are direct from the teachers.

  • Make sure they know what belongs to them
  • Label everything, including individual items.
  • Practice carrying, unpacking, zipping and packing school bags including putting a book in their library bag.
  • Get them to wear their new school shoes a few times before the first day to soften them up.
  • Teach them to tie their shoe laces or buy Velcro shoes and how to tie their laces and to use buttons and zippers!

5: Role play with your child

Develop social skills through role-playing interactions. For example, in my last workshop this holiday I had a boy called Liam who introduced himself to me.  It was so refreshing and hats off to his mum who has taught her child one of the best ways to develop confidence and make new friends.

In addition to role playing how to ask someone to play with you there are lots of other school skills like what to do when they don’t know what to do or how ask for help, tie their shoe laces and how to go to the toilet on their own (close door, flush etc. ) If you have not already, why not role play a trip to school.  You don’t have to actually go to school, you can stop when everyone is in the car ready to go.

A little more on friends, from my friend who is a teacher. She recommends reminding kids that their friends may not be the person they play with in the first week of school.  

6: Trust the teachers to keep them safe

On the first day, keep goodbyes definite and short and sweet. Children sense parent anxiety as a primal instinct and worry that if their parent is anxious about leaving them it may not be a safe place.

If you child is crying, talk to the teacher or the assistant. In most instances the best thing you can do is leave them with a teacher. Take some deep breathes and accept what you are feeling and trust that at this moment your child is safe but just feeling bad.  The teacher will call you if they need to.  It is totally normal to be emotional. My child suffered anxiety when she went to school and I remember being told that I needed to step back and be a mum and trust in the teachers. It was the best advice I ever got and by stepping back I helped her achieve independence and her ability to manage her emotions. Years later she became head girl and her kindy teacher could not believe it was the same child.

From my experience once mum or dad are gone they settle. Try not to tell them how much you will miss them” but reframe to “I can’t wait to hear about all the exciting things you will do.” I would also add that talking to them about how they might feel and how it is normal to feel a bit worried or nervous. Normalise the feeling by sharing when you were nervous about doing something new.  Role playing how they can tell their teacher how they are feeling is a great way to assist.  Click here for our video on dealing with separation anxiety which applies equally to first day of school.

7:  Set them up with an attitude of success

Attitude is such a critical success factor for learning. We can not underestimate the power of our thinking on learning. You may not have fond memories of school or enjoyed learning however we know that how your child thinks about school will impact on their ability to learn.   You may also be very anxious about whether they will cope and how they will get on with out you.  That is normal.  However, try not to let them know this.  Instead, fake it till you make it and send them off with a smile. 

Finally, for a Strength Hero approach, tell them they matter, that they are smart and capable, and it’s going to be a great year.  Encourage resilience and problem solving by reminding them they will make mistakes (and that wont always feel great). Remind them its okay to make mistakes. Tell them you know they will use their strengths of smarts and capability to keep trying.

Click here for 8 more tips on Managing Anxiety in Children about School