The Emotional Rules Of Starting School For Parents

You’ve completed the enrolment forms, gone to orientation day, had the home visit and taken your child in for the ‘stay and play’ in their new classroom. But now the actual first day of school is here. I don’t believe in sweating the practical stuff; name labels, uniform colours, lunch bags but I do believe in being emotionally prepared. Here are the only rules I think are worth following during those early weeks of that first term.

Rule 1: don’t panic about the school rules, at first.

Starting school is a significant milestone for every family. There’s a lot of take in and remember. The most important thing for a parent is not to put pressure on yourself to conform 100% from day one. Reception is supposed to be a nurturing period for both parent and child, so if you forget which colour socks they should/ shouldn’t wear or to hand in a form, it’s not a major deal. And you should find the school is supportive of this. They understand your efforts are initially focussed on settling your child and providing emotional support during those early weeks. You’ll have plenty of time to pick up school logistics and routine and every parent is in the same boat (even though some look as if they know it all, I assure you they have days where they’re in flux too).

Rule 2: don’t worry about school gate socialisation.

Sometimes it seems there’s a mad panic to clique up from week one. And while this may suit the parents, gravitating towards those who appear to have a lot in common with you, in can be a wasted effort. What if your child doesn’t play with their child as the year progresses? Of course it’s nice to find people to be friendly with at the school gates but logistically it could be challenging once the kids start after school clubs, to squeeze in a gratuitous catch up with a mum you like but the kids aren’t that bothered about each other. All I’m saying is don’t be disheartened if those early friends start to move in different circles. It’s not personal, just practical.

Rule 3: don’t take anything personally at the school gate.

Every family is in the same situation and park themselves in a bubble just to get through it. So don’t take any comment or vacant look seriously. If someone says ‘Hi’ one morning and doesn’t the other, they probably have something on their mind. If you usually stand with one parent and they seem to walk by you and talk to someone else, again, they probably got sidetracked and didn’t properly clock you standing there. None of this is personal. There’s a fleeting five minute window at the school gate for many, especially working parents, therefore impossible to cram in all the social niceties we come to expect as British people.

Rule 4: tackle issues proactively.

If your child comes home with specific complaints about the school or other pupils, take a proactive but gentle approach. Try to ascertain all the facts from your child first, have a quiet chat outside of school at a suitable time (e.g. just after school may not be ideal, as they are often tired and emotionally wiped out). The teachers and counselling staff have been trained to deal with conflict among pupils so always worth having a private chat with them first for advice. Don’t be tempted to gossip or create a confrontation, as this will most likely aggravate the situation.

Rule 5: try not to panic if things don’t go to plan.

You can’t predict how the first days of school will go. So sit back, observe and be led by your child on how they are coping with their new surroundings. Then think how you and the teacher can support them to settle in, whether it’s helping them to focus better on the teacher’s instructions, helping soothe anxieties or overcome extreme shyness with adults. Some of these things can take time, so take each week as it comes.

Good luck to your all on your first day of term!



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About Claire Jones-Hughes

Founder and co-editor of, Claire has been blogging since 2009. She has posted on a variety of sites including The Argus, The Huffington Post and The Guardian's Comment Is Free. Known as The Contented Mummy on social media, she is dedicated to honest, unsponsored blogging so that parents can benefit from shared experience. Can also be found at - sharing her journey to health & wellness.

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