Those three words are an elixir for parents and guardians across the world who breathe a collective sigh of relief as the first day of school approaches.
Ahhh! The silence is sheer bliss after you’ve dropped the children off at school or get them off to take the bus in their crisp uniforms. Shiny shoes, new bags, lunchboxes, books and fresh faces are all things I look forward to during the first week of a new term. Honestly, I still get excited when I’m shopping for school supplies. I like to help choose stationery, look for the right pair of school shoes, and tell the children why the bag with the “swag” is not going to matter in a few weeks. Long lines don’t faze me.
The start of September has brought to an end nine weeks of being a referee, master chef, tour guide, chauffeur, stylist, and shopper for lots of parents. It also signals an end to hearing “I’m bored!!” 100 times a day, whittling it down to perhaps the odd once or twice on weekends.
Let’s face it, most parents can’t wait for the “little rascals” to return to school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t love our children or that we’re ready to “offload” them on teachers either (as I’ve heard some teacher friends say). I think that after an extended period of not doing anything or as little as possible, children’s brains need stimulation, and learning new concepts of Mathematics, English Language, Social Studies, and the like, provide that. Then there are co-curricular activities and clubs that add to that experience. Being with other students also seems to provide motivation and gets them focused.
I don’t know about you, but as a parent of two teens I delight in knowing they’re moving up another rung on the education “ladder”. I remember their first days of school well…pre-school, primary and secondary. I remember that twinge of sadness and wanting to constantly check to see how they settled in, but that passed, and then I couldn’t wait to hear how their first day was, and if they made friends, and if they had homework. It got easier at every level and I began to relax a lot more.
While I relish the thought of having the children back in the classroom, there are others who don’t. Some people (the ones I know personally shall remain nameless) are filled with trepidation, worry, and angst as they dread school time.
It’s not the fact that they have to rouse their children each morning for
school, get behind them to take a shower, get dressed and eat breakfast then sit in snarling traffic Monday to Friday that troubles them. No, it’s not that. It’s the fact that they grapple with their children growing up. In their minds, they’re still the little cutie pies they held in their arms who needed Mummy and Daddy. Then, before they know it their tots are tweens headed for secondary school and they’re left wondering where the time went…Can we hit the pause button?
First-time secondary school parents usually have a ton of questions and their minds swirl with various scenarios: Will Aliyah be okay? Will Jonathan speak up in class? My gosh, Joshua is so tiny, will he be bullied? Will Christopher get on the right bus?
These are real worries for parents everywhere, and people fail to realise that while students are moving from one phase of their education to another, parents are very much a part of that move.
When I went to secondary school more than two decades ago, there were no sessions to tell me or my mother what to expect. We found out as the days progressed so that by the time my siblings got there it was an easier process.
Today, things are different and organisations including Parent-Teacher Associations, organise what we term transition workshops. Designed to help children before they enter first form, presenters tackle issues such as timetables, nutrition, public transportation, the mountains of homework they might get and coping in new environments, among other things.
But what about the parents and guardians of these youngsters? Quite often it’s the first time a child of theirs is entering secondary school and they have the same fears as their charges. Sometimes, while affirming the child that he/she will be “all right” they are worried sick. Some actually cry on the first day and others worry so much that they can’t really function at work or home, until they see them at the end of the school day.
This is where the respective PTAs come in. They can organise similar
workshops for the parents to help erase their fears and put their minds at ease. Parents are a part of the process and it is important to establish that home-school relationship early, from entry level if possible.
Parents should always remember that they are their children’s voices. We must speak on their behalf (or at least until they turn eighteen). PTA meetings are great forums for this and allow us to air concerns, get answers, and be involved in our children’s education. We can meet other parents, get to know our child’s friends’ parents and also make friends.
Additionally, through attending other activities, we support the school, PTA and our children. So, don’t shy away from attending. Get involved! Be involved! You don’t have to attend each meeting or be there for every event. What we should do is get to know the teachers and other support staff, find out if they need our help. I don’t mean just monetary either. Sometimes the school’s administration and teachers could use your advice on a particular project or maybe you know someone who could assist. Perhaps, you can start a club. Just do something!
We all know a parent/guardian who thinks it is okay to let their children fend for themselves because “they’re big boys and girls now” and “they must learn for themselves”. It is true they have to find their way but that doesn’t mean they are to be left alone. You should never be proud to say at the end of your child’s years at school that you never attended a PTA or a form level meeting.
Children have so many things coming at them as they go through puberty – crushes, social media posts, finding the right friends, sex – it’s a constant battle and they need the right tools to navigate. Very often children hear their parents’ voices in their heads. Make sure it is a positive one that will help and not hinder them. If you teach them the way early they are less likely to depart from it – we all know that peer pressure is real. There is such a thing as positive peer pressure too; children can help friends be better.
So, as we finish off week three of this Michaelmas term with 11 more weeks to go before Christmas vacation, make a pledge to get involved and be there. Ask them how their day went and encourage them to always be and give their best!
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Donna Sealy Guest Blogger Donna Sealy is a mother of two lovely teenagers. She likes meeting people and telling their stories. She enjoys writing, reading, loves to laugh, loves chocolate cupcakes, planning events, eating pasta. She believes that everyone has a purpose they just have to wait and God will reveal it at exactly the right time along with all the tools to execute. She stoutly believes that everyone can make a difference and must believe they do even if it takes them years to realise it and live up to that potential.
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