THE month of August has always filled me with a certain level of dread. The start of the new school year? This fear of the unknown has travelled with me since I was a young child.
On my very first day at school, I’m told, I cried until I was puce in colour and begged my anxious mother not to leave me in such a frightening, grey building with a strange woman I had never met before.
Nowadays, thankfully, things are quite different, but it is natural that parents and guardians whose children are about to embark upon their educational voyage hold concerns. I would like to offer a little guidance to those facing this crucial crossroads.
First, the basic practicalities: all items of clothing and materials should be named and known to the child. Shoes should be slip-on; ties (if worn) should be elasticated. Tiny hands should practise the fastening of tricky buttons. Snacks should be healthy and contained within easy-to-open containers. A clean handkerchief, or tissue, placed in a convenient pocket, will be immensely reassuring.
In the classroom, children will generally be asked to put up their hand when they want to speak. Whilst this won’t happen at home, you can gently remind your child of expected behaviour and good manners.
Children should be encouraged to share toys and “take turns” when playing with siblings or friends. Limiting time spent on electronic games will reap rewards, too.
The over-riding feeling at home should be one of calm, with school presented as an exciting, happy place. Bedtime routines should be rigidly adhered to, with the trusted trio of bath, bed and book reading. Any major domestic discussions should be delayed until children are asleep.
If your child weeps for a time in the mornings when term begins, don’t be too anxious. Try to find the balance between your concern and physical disentanglement so that the teacher can deal with the situation. Once you depart, the worry of bridging the home/school gap will be over immediately.
Try not to ask needless questions about ability groups or reading books in comparison with other classmates. Progress varies and will be at the pace that best suits your child. Just relax and enjoy the voyage.
• Louise Brown is a primary school teacher and a parent