Nothing really prepares you for the relentless morning dash that is the school run. And the fact that Dubai’s school days start so flippin’ early doesn’t really help matters either. But that time between getting up and dropping the little terrors at the school gates doesn’t have to filled with stress and frenzied activity – as long as you make sure you’re prepared for the task. Read on for some great advice by mums who’ve been there, done that...
I can’t believe the holidays are over!
No, neither can we! But the first day back after two – or even three – whole months away from school can be a real shock to the children too. Try to prepare your brood mentally for their return to the classroom for the last couple of weeks of their holiday. Start to talk about how they will soon see their friends again, discuss the new class they might be moving into, and (this is especially important for little ones) keep reminding them that they will soon be going back to school soon so that they don’t just wake up on the first day back and get a nasty shock when presented with their new uniform. This will be asking for trouble.
Shopping trips for new school stuff can help soften the blow too, especially if fancy stationery and a new trendy school bag are involved. Try to make the trip for new school things a fun experience, by letting your children have freedom of choice (within reason) and perhaps round the session off with a treat – a trip to KidZania, for example. This way, next year, they’ll look forward to the annual school stock-up shopping excursion, and it will help prepare them mentally for the back-to-school experience.
Surviving the daily school run
Organiser extraordinaire Anna Williams, a part-time copy writer from Jumeirah, tells us how she keeps her own unruly rabble in check. She strongly advises that you print out your kids’ weekly schedules and stick them somewhere prominent, like on the fridge. ‘Pack their bags with homework, library books, signed forms and sports or music gear the night before, then set them out beside the door,’ she says. ‘That way, all you have to do is grab and go.’ Sounds good to us.
Anna’s ‘night before’ approach also extends way beyond school bags: setting out clean, ironed clothes (right down to underwear) for the following day can help you avoid the last-minute ‘I can’t find my pants!’ emergency. As Anna says, ‘Finding out that all the socks are dirty is a real situation at 7.30am – but not so much at 7.30pm.’ One of the most headache-inducing things to try and sort out in the morning is their packed lunch – especially when you’ve already got breakfast on your, er, plate.
Unsurprisingly, Anna recommends preparing their lunch the night before too, but she also advises that you check on your brekkie supplies – bread, cereal, juice and so on. ‘There’s nothing worse than waking up and discovering there’s no milk,’ she says. If you don’t have enough fridge space for endless packed lunches and pints of milk, it’s worth considering investing in a small additional refrigerator.
Stock up on supplies
The dog is eating your son’s cereal while junior runs around the house looking in the most ridiculous places for his gym kit. You frantically throw cereal bars into his rucksack in lieu of anything vaguely nutritious because you didn’t get time to go to Choithram. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, but getting the day off to this kind of start is likely to result in your child arriving at school flustered or, worse, grumpy. Fear not, though: together, you can turn over a new leaf. Organisation really is key.
‘My greatest panics occurred on the busiest school days – especially when timetables changed unexpectedly,’ says Louise Brady, a Dubai-based mum-of-two. Louise got round these issues by delegating jobs and making sure the morning preparations weren’t done last minute. ‘I made sure our housemaid knew William’s timetable too, so that all the kits were washed and ready for the right days. Plus I now make a point of checking his diary every day, as soon as I pick him up. I’m much better than I used to be – practice makes perfect. But for William’s reception year, I was always the mother turning up halfway through the morning to drop off a kit we’d forgotten earlier on.’
Don’t weigh me down
All those books and heavy kit can cause long-term back problems for little scholars. The California Chiropractic & Sports Medicine Centre in Dubai offers the following tips to minimize the risk
• Don’t overload the pack. The bag should never weigh more than 10 per cent of your child’s bodyweight, so make sure they use school lockers and plan homework in advance
• Learn how to pack it properly – place all heavy items at the base of the pack, close to the spine for better weight distribution
• When you’re choosing a backpack, make sure it’s sturdy and of appropriate size – no wider than the child’s chest – with broad, padded shoulder straps
• It might be trendy to carry a backpack over one shoulder, but junior should always wear both shoulder straps to distribute the weight evenly
• Backpacks should not reach down further than the hollow of your child’s lower back