Mother: only one word, so many meanings. Whether you are a working mum or a stay-at-home mum, your jobs and tasks are endless and don’t lack in variety. Caregivers, cooks, cleaners, psychologists, chauffeurs, doctors, managers, hairdressers, dieticians, accountants, teachers, waitresses, maids and nurses are just few of the roles we take on daily.

There just aren’t enough hours in the day, we just don’t have enough arms to handle all the things we have to do. However, what we mastered is improvisation and lateral thinking, so let’s put that multitasking brain of ours to work, and figure out how to keep our sanity!

When children start school for the first time, we, moms, find ourselves experiencing all sorts of mixed emotions – on one hand, we are worried about possible separation anxiety and adjustment issues that our children might face. We are also concerned about our own reaction to this change that affects the whole family. On the other hand, we are somehow ‘relieved’ to finally be able to have just a few hours to ourselves to either focus on work, house chores, our other children, including the husbands, or just to put our feet up and enjoy a strong cup of coffee while reading our favourite gossip magazine.

It is perfectly understandable to feel a bit stressed and apprehended when it comes to preparing your children for this fundamental change. As the day draws closer, many things will be going through your head and you will surely be trying to ‘persuade’ your child that the first day of school will be exciting and fun. But, are you so confident about that yourself?

[quote_center]Get your child familiar with the idea of going to school …[/quote_center]

Read storybooks such as Jaet and Allan Ahlberg’s Starting School, or I am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child. ‘They’re engaging ways to create positive impressions of what this school malarkey is all about. They will also help your child raise any concerns (and remember these can be things which seem obvious or silly to us grown-ups – from ‘will there be any lunch’ to ‘how will I find the loo’ and ‘will I have to find my own way home’?)’ ParentDish

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Share your own happy memories. Tell them how school was for you on your first day – even if you don’t remember make a positive story up. Discuss how it felt like meeting new kids, making friends and why you liked your teacher.

Mention games you used to play during break times and activities you did during class. Remember not to add worries and anxieties they haven’t thought of or any negative stories and memories you recall from your school years.

Involve other siblings or close cousins. Get your older children to have a nice chat with your child starting school and explain how things might be like. You can even ask favourite cousins to share happy and fun memories from school but avoid telling them of any fights they might have had or cases of bullying. There is a time for that much later on.

Visit the school together and ‘ask to be shown the places that are really important to your child and their settling in process ie the toilets, where to get snacks, the self-registration area, the coat racks etc. You may be excited to see the ICT suite and the art studio, but your child needs reassurance about the more immediate and fundamentally important areas at this stage!’ (The Imagination Tree)

Knowing where the toilets are, is of high importance to your children and they need to feel safe and confident on that before they start school.

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Establish a routine. Even days or weeks before school starts make sure you get your children used to a weekly routine that is compatible with school hours. They will probably need to go to bed earlier and wake up at a different time than usual. Move towards the new routine gradually and over a few days rather than imposing it out of the blue a day before.

Make it special. Go on an exciting trip together to get all the necessary items needed for school such as a uniform, lunch boxes, a bag etc. You can also get new shoes and go for a relaxing warm chocolate later to talk about the shopping you just did and the big day approaching. Try to make this trip a 1 to 1 activity so you won’t have to divide your attention between other children.

Ensure you know where you’re meant to be and when on day one. ‘Mummy spending 10 minutes getting flustered about where to park or which school entrance to use will not create a relaxing mood. Unless the journey is very straightforward (or you have older children already there), do a ‘practice run’ beforehand and while you’re at it, point out attractive features to your child – the lovely playground equipment or the field for running around on.’ (ParentDish)

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Stay cool, have a good cry later. When your child goes to school for the first time, you will go through a very emotional and tearful experience. The first few days will be hard on the both of you but try to keep your cool and stay focused and all together so you don’t pass on unnecessary anxiety to your child.

After smiling and saying goodbye, visit a good friend for some needed coffee and have a good cry there.

[quote_center]… school has started[/quote_center]

Work with the teacher.  If your child suffers from a specific medical condition, is sick or is going through a parental divorce, death of a relative, etc., talk to the teacher and explain the special circumstance. If you need, for any reason, to travel often, he/she  also needs to be aware of that. Co-operating with the teachers will make your child’s life at home and at school easier.

Ask your children about their day. Perhaps while driving/walking back from school, during lunch or dinner or even just before they go to bed, ask your children to tell you about their school day. Some smaller children prefer to talk while moms or dads drive because they don’t look at them directly, making them feel more confident. Some other like to share news from school during the family dinner although your child could feel discouraged to talk about that while other family members talk about their own stuff too.

If your child feels reluctant to talk about anything that has to do with school, encourage him/her by making the first step and opening up about your day. Describe what you did, where you went, how you spend those hours he/she was at school and try to add certain emotions and feelings attached to your day, this way motivating your child to do the same.

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Pay attention to your own behavior. It can be anxiety-provoking for parents to hand over care and responsibility of their child to teachers. ‘Children take cues from their parents, so the more confidence and comfort you can model, the more your child will understand there is no reason to be afraid. Be supportive yet firm.

When saying goodbye in the morning, say it cheerfully – once!  Ensure you don’t reward your child’s protests, crying, or tantrums by allow him or her to avoid going to school. Instead, in a calm tone, say: “I can see that going to school is making you scared, but you still have to go. Tell me what you are worried about, so we can talk about it.”  Chances are, your child is anxious about something that requires a little problem-solving, role-playing, planning, and/or involvement from the teacher.’ (Anxiety BC)

[quote_box_center]“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.” – Lady Bird Johnson[/quote_box_center]

Plan the school week.  Knowing your child/s weekly schedule and classroom routine is very important. Once you obtain this information, sit down with your child and make a plan. Talk to him/her about what will happen every day, and agree on things such as drop off and pick up times, safety at school and night sleeping routine.

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Agree together on what will the packed lunch consist of and who is responsible for picking clothes or preparing the school bag. By talking about what will happen every day your child will feel more confident and prepared.

Don’t fall into this trap. Many parents, nowadays, wish for their children to take part in many outside school activities. They don’t realise that all this pressure builds up and children need time out to relax and get some needed rest, too. School will bring an increase in demands on your child thus a greater need for time out. Do NOT be tempted to involve your child in too many activities. Instead, ‘invest’ in opportunities for free play and social interaction.

All wonderful moms around the world – relax!! Rome wasn’t built in a day and you cannot fit a 70 hour schedule in the same day either! I promise I will provide you with some very practical ideas and tips to make your parental life  easier and you feeling more chilled out and loosen up. Till next time.
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Psychologist, world citizen, mother - Effie is one half of the alwaysladies.com founding pair. She can bring to life any party with either a smile, or a strong opinion. If like us you can't get enough of Effie, visit her blog at www.thethinkingmomblog.com

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