This week on pretty much any social media platform you’ll find funny memes or status posts about kids returning back to school.
Frazzled mum’s popping imaginary champagne bottles and teachers girding their loins in preparation for the children’s return.
The majority of children are looking forward to going back to school, getting back into a routine and seeing their friends. However, they will be going into a new year or even new schools and the transition can be emotionally overwhelming.
Being prepared is important to help start the new term smoothly. Not just for busy mums, dads and carers but for the children too. Practical preparation can ease the way to emotional preparation and knowing books, stationary, and uniform are sorted is the first step into a smooth new school year.
One of the worst things a child can face walking into school on the first day of the year is the fear of looking funny, standing out, or having a uniform that is old, grubby or too small.
A Looked After Child may have experienced an ill-fitting uniform, lack of supplies or may just feel different or believe they are branded with a badge that says “I’m in care”.
This is certainly how M felt when she went to her new school after being with me for a few weeks. Not only had she missed nearly a year of secondary school through countless foster care moves, but she was walking into a new school, in a new year where everybody had already made their network of friends. It’s a statement of her resilience that she managed to cope with that first term so well.
We have a rule in our house for school which is ‘New year, new everything’. It helps J especially to feel that he can cope, knowing his PE kit fits, his school bag is new, all his pens work and more importantly that his blazer looks new and not too short. I always pop spare pants and socks into his PE kit in case he loses anything in the changing rooms.
I admit I seek out school shirts and trousers which are the hardiest I can buy. Yes, the supermarkets do great offers on packs of shirts or blouses for next to nothing but I’ve learnt from experience that it’s a false economy and I buy quality shirts and the best trousers or skirts I can afford as they last and last and are outgrown rather than thrown away due to holes or rips. The other thing I do immediately is get their name sew in or write on name tags on EVERYTHING! I even name kit bags, lunchboxes, calculators and rulers!
On the first day back it’s important that everyone is up on time and had a good breakfast (in M’s case, trying to get her to eat anything at all). I drop off everyone at their school even if they normally get the bus, just so it’s one less thing for them to worry about.
J used to have a packed lunch at primary school but as he is going into secondary school this year, I’ve added him to my ParentPay account as his new school, like M’s, has a scanning barcode system – no cash is carried on the school premises.
This is a big year for M who is starting 6th Form and J, too, who is moving up into Secondary school. Both are anxious of the changes, especially J who is a nervous child anyway. Last week I went into his room and found him putting all his superhero collection in the bottom of his t shirt drawer. He said he wasn’t allowed to play with them anymore as he was going to proper school.
Mo, his school friend also making the move to secondary school had teased him about his Spiderman backpack. I told him he could pick out a new backpack when we went shopping. He chose a nondescript black bag which matched his uniform and I was a little sad for the inner Spiderman I knew he really wanted. Later that day dressed in his new school uniform, checking for size, he looked both so grown up and yet so small in a slightly too big blazer.
M on the other hand has been the epitome of cool and won’t show the slightest bit of stress about her transition to 6th Form. It helps that most of her friends are moving up with her. Instead of spending money on uniform for M, I’ve given her a generous budget for new clothes, new trainers and a backpack which she is delighted with.
Claire and M both have upgraded bank accounts now so I transferred the money to her account and they went out shopping. I was hardly surprised by the big brands they came back with and tried to hide my shock at how much the pair of Nike trainers was!
6th Form is a bit like college, I told M yesterday, in that you’ll be expected to get on with it instead of having a teacher remind you of everything you need to do. She rolled her eyes expressively at me and said ‘I know’ in that unmistakeable teenage voice which actually means ‘Duh, whatever’.
So instead I sent her a link to The Student Room which is a great resource for students. The 6th Form guide is a no holds barred advice about taking responsibility and best of all, it’s written by a student.
In the meantime, like millions of parents around the UK, I’m counting the days until I can get back into a routine, take Baby S back to her baby groups and not have to pick up countless Lego bricks or make-up from the kitchen all day long!t