Back to school guide for parents

Prepare for the new school term with our seven tips


The end of summer is fast approaching, which means one thing for your little terrors – it’s time to put back on that uniform and head to class. But are they ready for a new term? Here’s how you can help them prepare.

Whether you’re the kind of parent who forgets 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.

Routine regulation
It’s a long school day here in Abu Dhabi, 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 and 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 find out any concerns and talk them through.

Hello, goodbye
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; it’s even 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 daughter’s 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 and 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 to various charities (or a school’s internal parent-teacher association). Get the clothing list from your school and get to the supplier now, before they run out and while there’s still time to tailor anything.

Dad Ian Hoppe says labelling EVERYTHING is essential. ‘Millie (five) 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 a higher chance the items will return home if they are liked. Plus it all helps build excitement for the impending first day.

Perfect planning
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.’

Fabulous food
Remember the days when packed lunches were filled with peanut butter and penny sweets? Not anymore! Today in the age of allergies, living in multicultural Abu Dhabi 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 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 bamboozling choice of after-school activities, now’s the time to check them out. If you’re working and need after-school care, then check with the school if there are facilities and places, if not call around the providers in your area.

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