We talked to experts from schools right across the UAE to tap in to their years of experience in helping the school year get off to the best possible start.
From Early Years to older children, and whether starting school for the first time or transferring to a new school, we have the top tips to create a great first day.
Early Years – that all important first day at ‘big school’
The Early Years team at The British International School Abu Dhabi (BISAD), are well versed in calming first day nerves – be they from the children or the parents!
Starting school for the very first time is quite a transition, but as Natalie Boon, FS1 Year Leader tells us, there are certain things parents can be doing to smooth the way.
Natalie and her team feel that emphasising independence is key here, and she advises parents to allow even the youngest children to take control of some elements of first day preparation.
“It’s natural to feel anxious when sending your little ones off to ‘big’ school but there are many things you can do to prepare. Orientation Day, hosted by many schools before term starts, is an excellent opportunity for you and your child to meet teachers and visit classrooms in a relaxed way. Ensure your child has an early night before their first day and wakes on the day refreshed and excited, with plenty of time for a healthy breakfast.
"Make wearing the new school uniform a special occasion and have your child help you to pack their school bag so that they can recognise their own snack box, lunch and water bottle. Arrive on time for your child’s first day so that you can help settle your child in the classroom.
"Independence is a key skill your child will learn once they start ‘big’ school and you can pave the way for this during the summer by promoting independence at home. Especially with toileting, eating and dressing.
"In the words of Ann Landers, “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”"
Advice for older children, transitioning to a new school
Sasha Crabb, Principal of Victory Heights Primary School is rightly proud of the family feel and warm welcome her school offers to new children. Sasha is both a Mum, and a very experienced Principal and has this advice for new parents:
"Children will be more tired than normal over the first few days, so getting them into good sleeping habits over the summer is important. Many children will come home with lunch boxes that are full – don’t worry too much - they are getting used to a new environment and all that comes with it.
"My next advice is vital - let them go! Whatever their age, let the teachers settle your child if they seem upset. It is difficult to see your child cry, but try to remember that our teachers are very experienced in distracting and settling children into a plethora of exciting activities. DONT WORRY - they will hug your child!
"Lastly, please remember that you have chosen the school so now invest in a relationship of trust with them. Make sure you are clear on how the school channels communication."
Over at Dubai Heights Academy, Principal Andrew Prosser and his team are well aware that many expat children will be settling into a new school and country, all in one go!
This ‘double whammy’ is stressful for even the most relaxed of families, so Andrew has a simple and sensible top tip - plan for calm.
“The calmer and more organised you are, the better your child will feel about the start of school. The start of a new school year can get very stressful, as you're all rushing to get things done, but try to avoid the chaos. If you stay calm, there's a greater chance your child will!
"Make sure your child knows the routine before the start of school. A big source of stress for children is whether Mum or Dad will be there to pick them up. So, if a nanny or another relative will be collecting your child from school, make sure they know who to expect.
"In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, get everything together. Make sure you have all the forms, permission slips, etc. filled out before that big first day.
"Build a relationship with your child's teacher during the first week. Tell them about any struggles your child may have had last year and let them know that you want to be actively involved.
"Lastly, brainstorm ideas with your children for things to do when school ends on the first day. Knowing the plan for after school will help get you and your children through the potential stress of that first day”.
The team at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would like to wish children and parents alike a happy and stress free first day at school! We’d love to hear your experiences – share them with us here or on our facebook page.