Sending your little one to school for the first time can be a traumatic experience for both parent and child. You are desperate for them to fit in. Will they make friends? Will the teachers like them? Will they be happy? Will they learn anything? Here are my 10 Top Tips on how to be the perfect parent at school.
1. Assess the school
When you go to see your child’s school, the Three Ls are very useful: Look, Listen and Learn. This is something I use at Diana Mather Training. Look at the surroundings, look at the teachers and look at the children. Listen carefully to what the teachers are saying and if possible, listen to snatches of the children’s conversation. Learn from what you have seen and heard, and this will give you a good idea of the environment your child is moving into.
2. Start a routine
A regular routine helps children feel safe and secure. Try and keep the mornings as calm as possible. Get them up in plenty of time and make sure they have everything they need for the day; nothing is more stressful than a panic because someone has forgotten sports kit or swimming gear.
3. Pick up on time
Always try to be at school on time when they come out as it can make some children feel insecure if they are the last ones left with the teacher. My mother was often late when picking me up and I hated it!
4. Build a network with other parents
Getting to know other parents will create friendship groups for you and your children. It will help your children build relationships that can last for the whole of their lives. A strong network of friends means that you can also ask for help with things like pickups or overnight stays etc, but always offer to help them first.
Try not to indulge in gossip. Gossip can be seen as malicious talk about others, or just harmless chat. However, it can be serious, so it is important to think before you repeat rumours. Email or WhatsApp gossip can be spread unintentionally if it is sent to unintended recipients, so always check them before pressing send!
5. Get to know the teachers
A good rapport with your child’s teachers will let you know how they are getting on; whether they are making friends, if they are keeping up in class or struggling a bit. But be careful that they (or you) don’t become ‘teacher’s pet’ as this can lead to teasing or even in extreme cases, bullying.
6. The School Play
Offering to help with the school play will give you the opportunity to meet more parents and teachers. But try not to show disappointment if your child doesn’t get a part and never criticise anyone – even if you think the costumes are a bit naff or the lead actor not up to scratch!
When children start school and haven’t really formed friendships, it’s best to ask the whole class to a party if possible, as no one likes to be left out. It also means your child will get to know the children out of the classroom and learn to see them in a different light. Take advice on the size and cost of presents and party bags other parents are giving. You don’t want to appear mean or miserly but spending too much is also bad manners as it can make others feel uncomfortable.
8. Christmas and birthday gifts
Children hate being teased so again, try and gauge what other parents are spending as a guideline for your gifts. By the time Christmas comes most children have formed friendships and you will probably have got to know more of the class, which makes life easier.
It’s not necessary to buy everything new if there is a good second-hand shop at the school but try and ensure those items are in tiptop condition and fit properly. I was one of three girls and starting school in one of my older sister’s over-large hand-me-downs did my school cred no good at all!
10. Don’t brag!
When you are bursting with pride over your little genius’s achievements, praise them to the roof to family and close friends, but try not to sing their praises too high in public because, despite your best intentions, boasting about your child will not endear them to other parents or friends.
About the expert
Diana Mather has been teaching etiquette and good manners around the world for over fifteen years. She is a regular contributor to radio and television programmes, commenting on matters of style, personal presentation and international etiquette. Trained as an actor, after appearing in various TV dramas, Diana went on to read the news for BBC Northwest for over 10 years. After moving into the training sector, she was one of the first people to help politicians improve their overall performance when the UK Parliament was first televised. She now works with politicians, professionals, businessmen and women and students from all over the world who want to learn International Etiquette, Confidence Building, Social Intelligence, Public Speaking, Media Relations and Job Interview Techniques.
She went into the etiquette field in 2005 and a year later introduced the first finishing school for gentlemen in a castle in Scotland. This achieved worldwide publicity and she has taught etiquette in China, India, Africa, Russia, Iran and Uzbekistan as well as Europe and the UK. She has worked with members of Middle Eastern Royal Families and international hotel groups.
She is the author of 12 books. Her latest, ’Speak’ was published in 2020 and ‘Change your Attitude – Change your Life’ will come out in 2022.