The holidays may have seemed like a yawning eternity back in the mists of time or ‘June’ as it’s more commonly called, but they are now officially drawing to a close. Whether you’re the kind of parents who forget assemblies and which day the kids have PE or whether you’re a famed super-planner, our collection of tips and ideas will help ease you into the preparation process!
It’s a long school day here in Dubai, couple that with the heat and humidity of September and the soon-to-be regular school-day routine and you have a recipe for some super tired kids. Try scaling back bedtimes a few weeks before school starts along with those mega lie-ins you’ve all been enjoying, then slowly reintroducing a relaxing bedtime routine, and we promise it’ll pay serious dividends come September.
Talk it through
We all remember the post-holiday blues, the end of those idyllic days of freedom. For international kids it can be worse, returning from overseas after weeks with friends and family, the thought of school can be a harsh reality. Talk to them about their expectations of the new school year. Discuss activities, friends and encourage them to express their thoughts. This will hopefully get them geared up and enthusiastic about going back. But remember to acknowledge and address any fears and worries they may have too. And whether it’s a new school year or their very first, try to tease out any concerns and talk them through.
One of the saddest things about being an expat is that come September many cherished friends will have left for other climes, while a whole host of brand new faces will mysteriously appear. It’s tough for kids to lose friends regularly; hell it’s miserable for parents too! Phone around school friends and arrange some play dates now. See who is back, catch up on the summer gossip and reconnect with both kids and parents before class starts.
Remember losing a ‘bestie’ creates feelings of genuine grief and loss, make time to discuss their feelings and work through any emotions. Although it can also lead to unexpected positives as mum Fiona Mitchell points out. “My daughters best friend moved away when she was seven, although it was a really sad and stressful time, I was really surprised to find that they stayed in touch and wrote and emailed each other regularly”.
The kit & caboodle
If they are staying at the same school, chances are the uniform will be the same. Now’s the time to dig them out from the back of the cupboard and check if they still fit. Any outgrown items can often be sold through a school secondhand shop or donated it to the PTA for fundraising.
Get the clothing list from your school and get to the supplier now, before they run out and while there’s time to still tailor anything that needs altered.
Dad Ian Hoppe says labeling EVERYTHING is essential. “Millie (5) has come home with someone else’s PE kit and no PE kit more often than her own, I’m continually down at the school looking for her things.”
Also, who doesn’t remember buying cute pens and the joy of a new pencil case? Take the kids along to buy the fun bits and pieces and by being involved in the process there’s more chance the items will return home if they are liked. Plus it all helps build excitement for the impending ‘first day!
Whether you choose a diary, wall planner or post-it splattered windscreen, you’re going to need something to keep track of who needs what and when. Noel King, a busy working mum of two says a large white-board is her perfect planner. “I’m a freelance designer and have a pretty irregular routine. A chart helps us organise life. It has everything from a weekly meal plan, to which day who has PE and library and at what time. So whether I’m home or not - everyone knows the plan.”
Remember the days when packed lunches were filled with peanut butter, penny sweets and pepperoni’s? Not anymore! Today in the age of allergies, living in multicultural Dubai and the very cool healthy food policies most schools promote, the humble packed lunch is now a potential minefield. Make sure you get the school policy on just exactly what you can and can’t put in it.
Lunch-box wise, try to find out what’s in vogue at your school. No one wants to be the kid with the bland tupperware when everyone else is rocking this season’s essential mini-cooler-box.
Many of us slip into a tired lunch-box routine pretty quickly. Try getting the kids to discuss what they want. Maybe their tastes have changed over the holidays or they just want to be more involved in what goes in there. Take them shopping with you and get them involved in what they eat, that’s assuming you can bare the meltdown in Spinneys over the mini choccy puddings or explaining why they can’t lunch daily on M&M ice-cream.
And don’t forget about breakfast, we’ve long been told it’s the most important meal of the day. Studies have continually shown that kids who eat breakfast perform better at school.
After school activities
If you want to take advantage of the downright bamboozling choice of afterschool activities here in Dubai, now’s the time to check them out. If you’re working and need afterschool care, then check with the school if there are facilities and places, if not call around the providers in your area.
Book the bus
Many school bus routes fill up quickly. If you haven’t already finalised your transportation plan, do it now. Contact the school for your bus provider and find out costs and spaces. Check times too, no one wants to be the kid picked up at 6am and dropped off at 5pm.
The Devil’s in the detail
Give a thought to the information you’ve supplied the school with in the past. Are vaccines all up to date? Who are your emergency numbers, do they need changing? If you’ve changed doctors, discovered new allergies or taken a new job it will all change the data the school needs to have.
Rein them in
If your lot bomb through the door depositing bag, lunch box and papers throughout the house, now’s the time to start reining them in. Designate a place for bags, enforce a strict ‘clothes in the wash-basket policy’ and consider a paperwork tray to prevent school letters from going astray.