When Susie Campbell’s youngest child heads off to school in a couple of weeks, it’s likely there will be a few tears shed.
But as the Sydney mother is quick to point out, they’re unlikely to be her four-year-old son Patrick’s when starts his first year of primary at the end of this month.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Mrs Campbell said though the milestone is a big one, it’s one the family have been preparing for a while now.
‘It’s going to be a big change but I’m excited for him. And he’s really excited too.’
‘He’s already been to orientation at his new school and hasn’t taken his uniform off since we bought it since before Christmas. He wears it everywhere.
‘He wants to be the “big boy”. He’s very proud to be starting school and tells everybody where he’s going.’
Mrs Campbell revealed she has put in a fair bit of time getting Patrick ready for school – not just helping him with the basics such as buying a new uniform or supplies, but also emotionally.
‘We’ve talked about it an awful lot. We’ve been talking more about interacting with friends how friendships are formed.
‘Things like how he needs to be respectful of others, how he needs to play.
She described her son as having a very ‘strong-willed character’ who likes things a certain way, so developing some sharing and co-operation skills, and working with a professional to manage a sensory issue, have also been part of Patrick’s prep.
There’s also been plenty of focus on ensuring Patrick feels ready with other changes to his routine when the first day of ‘big school’ rolls around.
She explained how she’s been using a game – a type of flash card system called School’s Coming – that’s helped with getting her youngest ready.
While the family have already been through the first day of school with their older son Thomas – he’s set to start Year 3 – Mrs Campbell said the process, for her or her husband, never gets any easier.
‘My husband is distraught about it,’ before admitting he’d ‘welled up’ on their eldest son’s first day.
‘I will definitely be emotional but I won’t do it in front of him because it’s important he knows mummy is happy for him and it’s all okay,’ she continued.
‘If I am crying, he’ll think there’s something wrong.’
Parenting expert, Sharon Witt, notes parents are likely to find the experience of sending their child to school for the first time one that’s emotionally fraught.
‘It’s a charged time, not only for the children themselves but for parents who have been the primary caregivers for the bulk of that time,’ she said.
‘Releasing your child into someone else’s care for seven hours a day can be quite nerve-wracking.’
Expert Sharon Witt (pictured) said make preparing for school a really enjoyable time
The expert advised parents feeling tense about this new situation, to think about how they could emphasise the positive aspects of their child’s next step.
‘Talk about your own positive primary school experiences. Like friends you made and your special memories,’ the author said.
‘Make preparing for school an enjoyable time,’ she also suggested.
‘Little things things like purchasing their stationery or a personal item like a drink bottle or lunchbox can all contribute to a sense of occasion for a child.’
Sharon also stressed the importance of making sure kids are really well organised ahead of the day.
‘If you’ve bought a uniform before the holidays make sure your child tries this on again before their first day, in case they’ve had a recent growth spurt,’ she said.
For children who might appear overwhelmed when they first start, Sharon said to make every effort to keep the lines of communication.
‘Asking questions like “What was the best thing about school today?” or “What was your favourite thing about today?” starts off those conversations in a positive way.’
Mrs Campbell knows this change will be a big one in her hers and Patrick lives, but she maintains it’s one the family are ready for.
‘Yes, of course, it’s upsetting and emotional for you but they’ve been looking forward to it for so long.
Her advice to first-time parents is to really make the effort to keep the focus on the kids, and similarly to Sharon, make it the most positive experience possible.
‘You don’t want them to sense there’s anything to be really apprehensive or nervous about because then they will worry.
‘Be as encouraging and positive as you can,’ she concluded. ‘And always maintain your enthusiasm.’