| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai school survival guide

A child's first day at school is enough to make mums break out in a cold sweat. Here is how to survive

Lesson 1

Be prepared
Tears, tantrums and mad panic – ah, it must be a regular school morning. Striker Sammy has footie practice today but his kit is still festering in the bottom of his sports bag and picky Penelope is in a strop because you forgot to go to the supermarket and have run out of her favourite cheese spread. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, and, while it may sound a bit OCD, organisation is most definitely key. Being prepared well before the alarm goes off is vital if you don’t want your unruly rabble arriving at school flustered or, even worse, grumpy.

We asked mum-of-three Kath Vincent how she keeps her boisterous brood of boys in check. ‘Getting everything ready the night before certainly makes life easier,’ she says. She also strongly advises you print off a copy of their timetable and stick it somewhere prominent, like the fridge. ‘That way you’ll know in advance when they’ve got swimming or PE or library, so you can get organised.’

Discovering all the socks are in the wash is less of a headache at 7.30pm than 7.30am, so Kath ensures the boys’ uniforms are clean and ironed the night before, checks underwear essentials and makes sure she can find two shoes of the same design and size. She advises buying extra of those items that tend to go astray – such as swimming trunks, sports socks and the ever-elusive school tie. ‘Ties can be a real nightmare in our house,’ Kath says. ‘Everything else can be ready but, all of a sudden, there’s a mad panic because they’ve ripped their tie off and don’t remember where they’ve put it. It usually turns up, but I keep a spare one downstairs for those “lost tie” emergencies.’

School bags
At some point, your pint-sized pupils will have to take responsibility for their own bags, but you can help out by keeping an eye on their schedule and reading their communication book every day so you can point them in the right direction. ‘That way you know if PE means swimming or soccer and you avoid that last-minute dash with the right kit later in the day,’ says Kath. Younger kids may find it a little overwhelming in the beginning, so get everything ready the night before, packing homework, library books, signed forms, and sports or music gear together, then set them out, grouped by child, beside the door. Then, in theory, it’s just grab and go. Also get them into the habit of emptying their bags as soon as they come through the door, popping sweaty gym kits in the laundry and laying out their homework for the evening.

It’s the most important meal of the day, and if you let your kids skip breakfast, chances are they’ll be lethargic and bad-tempered by mid-morning. Check your brekkie supplies the night before and spend five minutes setting the table so there’s no excuse for not squeezing in a bite amid the morning mayhem. If you can, make up lunch boxes the night before. ‘Then you just have to take them out the fridge and pop them in their bags as they’re about to leave,’ says Kath. Plan what you want to give them for lunch each day before you do your weekly supermarket shop, and make sure the items on your list are enough to last the week.

By Karen Iley
Time Out Dubai,

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