Every family has their rituals at the start of a new school year, whether or not they realise it. It helps with the nerves and the excitement – more advanced work, new teachers, perhaps a new school even. Children feel it, parents too. Our little rituals help to prepare us:- checking the uniform fits, replacing the broken lunch box, buying school shoes and a new pencil case, sorting through books, setting the alarm clock.
Every child has different needs as they approach a new start. Parents will often instinctively offer the right kind of help for their child to make the shift from summer holiday mode into a new term.
When I remember back to my school days, there were some years I was ready to go back, other years I was reluctant. Some years school felt like an inviting place, other times it did not. Whatever my stance, I always felt reassured by the pre-school shopping trip with my mother – inferring in some way that she was going to make sure I had everything I needed.
I would like to propose that you add to your practical rituals of preparation a way for your child to centre themselves mentally before school, if you don’t already. Invite your child to pick three things that they want to get out of their time at school this year. Now they will be all to aware of your agenda, whatever that is (good results, friendships, not forgetting things, getting ready for school on time, happiness) – so release them from this. Explain that this is to be their three intentions, nobody else’s, and it can be to do with anything from work, to friends, to their developing character, or after school activities.
School is an institution. The government decides the curriculum. The teachers decide the lesson plan. Your child can still decide how they are going to make the most of what is on offer there.
Find a time when you can chat privately, it could be on your way back from town, in the car, or over a shared packet of biscuits. It can be fun, it can be informal, it can be brief. Listen, encourage, they may not be used to thinking this way, tease it out of them. Sum up for them what you have heard them say. Do not use it as a time to lecture or propose what you believe should be their goals. You might suggest that they write their intentions and wishes down and seal it into an envelope that you will keep safe; then post to back to them in six months time. Even if it seems strange the first time around, and a little false or forced even, I find that children come to want to repeat the exercise at the start of the next school year. That is how rituals work – they are out of the ordinary – but we soon adopt them, and miss them if forgotten, using them to mark the passage of time, and assist us in managing life’s changes.
Photo: Creative Commons by The Daring Librarian