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Back To School With Pat Rees

Tuesday, 4 September 2007


Our parenting expert Pat joins us with advice on how to get your kids settled back into school.

About Pat
Pat is a mother of four and is also a state registered nurse. She is a certified midwife and holds a diploma in ophthalmology/family planning/facilitation. She has worked at the Well Woman Center since 1978. Pat regularly gives talks on women's health, parenting, sex education and contraception. Pat is the author of Positve Parenting and Practical Parenting.

1. If your child just started big school .

So you've already gone through all the physical and mental preparations to prepare both you and your child for their first day of school. In fact, this day is not as traumatic as it used to be as most parents will have sent their children to some sort of playgroup, crèche or Montessori, before they start back in school.

So, the first day may have been a breeze or you both may be finding this big change a little difficult. Parents should aim to make this as positive an experience as possible.

Here are a few tips to help both parent and child adjust to this new part of life:
. Spend time with your child each evening if you can. Talk about their day and actually listen to how it went.
. An ability to identify rhyming words is an important skill for your child to learn before they can read. Your child will learn nursery rhymes in school but encourage them by teaching some more at home. Reading to your child motivates an interest in reading and learning. It is also always an advantage for your child to know how to count to 10 and say the alphabet.
. If there is any change to your own schedule at home e.g. working late, ensure that this has not affected your child. Your child will probably notice your absence more than usual if it coincides with starting school, a sensitive time.
. Friendships are very important to your child. Your child is learning to make new friendships. It might be an idea to invite your child's new school friends to your home.

The child who isn't settling in well .
While children are adaptable, and many are familiar with a structured environment by age five, primary school can still be a strange place for your child in the early days. There's more noise, bigger buildings and a greater number of children.

What can you do to help?
. Don't forget that while your child may have been really looking forward to the new experience of 'big school', after a few days the novelty may have worn off.
. If your child is finding starting big school difficult, talk to them about your own first day, how at first you were apprehensive, that you found the experience strange but that after a while you started to make friends and you really liked it. Tell them about all the exciting things they can now do.
. Read books about school, starting school.
. Make sure that they understand simple instructions about what the teachers are saying and doing.
. Make sure they have mastered going to the toilet by themselves.
. You know your child best, if you have any concerns or questions, talk to the teacher. If your child's problem is ongoing, discuss it with the teacher together to work out if there is anything either of you can do to help matters.

And when it goes from bad to worse .
Occasionally children can start to have bedwetting and nightmares. Pat thinks that this type of child will just need extra attention and tender loving care at this time.
If your child is really not settling, perhaps the child was too young to start. Don't be afraid to pull your child out of school until next year if need be.

2. If your child is returning to school .

It has been a summer without thinking about any school routines. Routine may have totally gone out the window. You may be wondering how things were managed at all last year. The stress is building already and it's only a few days into term time...

So, how do we get back into routine?
. If you haven't already - set up a nighttime, after-school and morning routine.
. Before we go to bed, layer the clothes for the next day out on the bed.
. Introduce curfew and strict bedtimes again.
. In the morning, your child should get dressed before breakfast, always make sure your child eats breakfast.
. After school, your child should take a break but you should have a set home-work time for your child.
. Ideally homework/study should be started before dinner/tea - even one hour of it.
. Homework period - no television, no phone calls, no friends.
. The rest of homework can be finished maybe from seven to eight o'clock.

How do we combat tiredness?
Your children are going to be tired in their first week back in school regardless. Hopefully, a week before starting back, you have tried to reintroduce the routine of going to bed early again. Their bedtime may have been casual throughout the summer. Also, their brains have probably not been exercised throughout the summer as much as they usually would be in school. If your child is exhausted, they may behave badly because of it so try and be understanding. They shouldn't take too long to get back into the swing of things. You can help by being strict with their bedtimes and making sure they are eating healthily.

3. Don't forget, before it's too late .

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance scheme ends on 30th Sep. It is designed to help meet the cost of uniforms and footwear for students in Ireland attending school. The scheme operates from 1 June to 30 September each year. The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance is The Allowance is provided by the Health Service Executive as part of the Supplementary Welfare Scheme.

Check for more information and to see if you are eligible. Alternatively, locall 1890 777 121. If you are, you should apply to the Community Welfare Officer (CWO) at your local health centre.

For More Information
For more info check out

Practical Parenting - An Irish Survival Guide by Pat Rees is available in book stores nationwide priced at €13.00