KidsMatter ambassador Tracey Spicer knows what it’s like to feel excited and a little nervous about the first day of school. As mum to ten-year-old Taj and eight-year-old Grace, she’s survived the ups and downs of the beginning of school life. Here, she shares her experiences and offers her top tips for families.

How did you feel on your children’s first day of school?

I can absolutely tell you I was overwrought for both kids. I didn’t think I was overwrought each time I dropped them off on the first day, because I put up a pretty confident front – but it’s an act! Each time I dropped them off for the first time and I was happy, happy, happy. But each time I walked out the front and got in the car, I burst into tears unexpectedly because it’s such a big milestone. 

What advice do you have for parents?

Feel free to cry because when I burst into tears in the car park all of these other parents who I didn’t know came over and hugged me. It was a really nice way to meet other parents, so don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about crying. 

It’s also important to acknowledge that these sorts of milestones bring up memories and emotions and feelings from your own childhood. It’s not just the milestone, it’s not just being nervous for them – it’s bringing up a lot of memories for you as well. I think it’s important to understand those emotions. 

What are your top tips for the first week of school? 

Stick to a routine. Take your child to school at the same time each morning and pack similar foods in their lunchbox each day. When you get home in the afternoon, do similar activities with them so they get into a routine – because kids love boundaries and they love routine.

Make the experience as fun and positive as possible. I packed all of my children’s favourite comfort foods, including foods that are easy to eat and a few treats. I stayed at school a little bit longer for both of them on the first day until they were playing with one other child.

Be supportive and emotionally present. Try to be patient with any problems or issues your child might have at school. I put little notes in the kids’ lunchboxes that said, “I love you” and I drew funny pictures so they received a really supportive, fun message.

Did your family encounter any problems along the way? 

My son was born quite prematurely with a low birth weight so some of his developmental abilities were quite behind in the first five years. So we spoke to the teachers and we decided half way through the year to hold him back. That was the best decision we have ever made in our children’s schooling because the next year he was the eldest in the class. He was much more confident and he found kids that he was developmentally at the right level with. 

To check out Tracey in action, watch the Starting School videos