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But I know that going back to school can be stressful for kids and parents and caregivers alike – and I know that when it comes down to it, I’ll probably feel anxious and a bit tearful when the boys are getting ready to go back. No matter how many times we do this, whether it’s the first time we send them off to school, or whether they’re your youngest heading off into Year 9, I think it’s still strange going from having them in the house for the six weeks of the summer holidays, asking for food and telling you they’re bored, to sending them off through the school gates.
That’s why we asked Daisy Upton aka Five Minute Mum to give us five minutes of her time and share some of her expertise. I love how Daisy makes the most of even just five minutes (the clue is in the name, after all!) with her kids and encourages us all to do the same. It is amazing what a big difference that can make and her experience of being on both sides of the school gates definitely gives her a super unique insight into how we can best support our kids through this transitional phase.
However you’re feeling about September being here again, I hope Daisy’s tips, both here and on Instagram make the transition a bit easier.
Daisy! Welcome to Coffee with Gi! We’re so happy to have you here, especially as so many kids are getting ready to go back to school this week!
Your book Five Minute Mum: Time For School is such a gift for anyone who might be finding this time overwhelming or stressful. Your experience as a teaching assistant must have given you so much insight into the best ways to help kids get ready for starting school. How did you draw on those experiences when writing the book?
Yes, the children that I worked with when I was a teaching assistant, were mostly the children that had unique learning challenges, so I spent a lot of my time working with them trying to come up with creative and exciting ways to make learning fun. So, it was really interesting to work with different personalities and finding our different learning styles of those children and often they were in the early years age groups and so they definitely inspired me and I thought about them a lot when I was writing this book.
How did those experiences (as a teaching assistant) help you prepare for sending your own children to school?
Not as much as you would think! I think that being on parent side is completely different to being on the teaching side and you experience it as a parent, even if you know exactly what’s going on in that classroom, you are still a parent to your little one going in and you still have the same worries and anxieties that any other parent does. However, what was nice was knowing and feeling confident about how much the teachers would be caring for my little one because every teacher I’d ever worked with had always been so kind and caring and considerate of all the children that I knew that they would be in safe hands.
Did you learn any unexpected lessons when you sent your own kids to school?
I think the main thing was just how difficult it is to get anything out of them about what happened during the school day! That was a real surprise to me – I thought they would start telling me about what happened, especially because I prompted them from my own knowledge. I just got very little out of them during those first few weeks, so I started trying to get creative and thinking of new ways that we could have those conversations and that’s why I’ve written about them. The techniques that I drew upon in Time For School because those conversations are really important but you don’t want to force them either, you want them to happen naturally and you want them to talk about school and tell you things but also, it should just feel part of the conversation and not be a mastermind quiz for them. I learnt how to do that over the course of Ewan’s first year at school.
You’ve given HMHB some tips for getting prepped for starting school but what last minute tips do you have for any parents who might not be feeling super organised or who might not have managed to integrate the tips we’ve shared on our Instagram yet?
My biggest tip is don’t worry about trying to be some perfect parent because they don’t exist. Even the ones that you think have got it all together that you see on the playground haven’t really. Nobody has. We’re all just trying our best. There will be days when you forget things and you get it wrong, when perhaps their uniform is a bit dirty or you’ve had to scrub some baked bean juice off their jumper with a flannel in the morning to get them looking presentable. And there will be times when you might run late and things might go wrong and I think we all just need to understand that’s totally normal and everybody has those experiences. So don’t worry!
How do you think playing games together and creating the short bursts of family time you advocate in your book can help kids feel more prepared for school?
I think one of the most important things that we want to encourage when it comes to a parent child relationship is good communication and for children to feel like they can talk to us about anything, big or small, and that they feel safe and comfortable chatting to us. I think playing games together and having that face to face and one to one time with your little one – little and often, not big, massive and long play sessions, just five minutes a day – gives them the chance to think OK, I can talk about something here with mummy or daddy or my grown up. I can tell them something because they’re in that safe space – they’ve got your ears totally to themselves. So, by creating that through play, you give them an avenue to have those conversations. For example, it might be through dolls in that they role play out a scenario that’s worrying them and then you can kind of pick up on those things and discuss it with them. It’s a lot easier, I find, if we do that through play.
We’ve talked a bit on our blog about helping kids deal with any end of summer anxiety, or anxiety around going back to/starting school, do you have any extra tips on how parents can help their kids deal with that?
My main tip for any kind of anxiety is to talk as often as you can and to really listen – so let them speak, leave pauses, ask them open questions, count to five and let them think about the answers they want to give. Try not to fire too many questions to them at once and really let them take their time to talk to you about it if they need to. It’s really difficult when we can see a little one is anxious, but like I said in the previous question, my biggest tip here is play, because play can help us all, even us grown ups when it comes to anxiety.
Five Minute Mum: Time For School by Daisy Upton is out now by Penguin in paperback. You can follow Daisy here
Walt Disney World – OK, hear me out here. I’ve been fortunate enough to join forces with Walt Disney Travel Company to create a brand new podcast Journey to the Magic. Each week I chat to a different famous face about their Dream Disney holidays and it’s got me so giddy thinking about the memories we’ve had in the park. So even though we can’t go over there at the moment I feel like I’ve been on such a huge wave of appreciation for previous trips that I’ve had a pang for some Disney fun in the future. Fingers crossed.
Hoop earrings. I’ve gone pretty feral over the summer holidays (looking closely at my eyebrows will confirm this statement) and the thought of sprucing myself up for social events makes me feel a bit weird. However, gold hoops make me feel ready for anything. I had no idea they’d have this affect on me… for some people lipstick does the same thing, but not for me – so I’m glad I’ve finally found my quick pick-me-up!
Blackberry picking! This is without doubt Buddy’s favourite time of year. It doesn’t matter how many blackberries we manage to pick, Buddy will have eaten his weight in blackberries before we’ve made it back to the house. I love seeing the excitement and enjoyment on his face and his picks them and then stuffs them in. Nothing like a lovely forage!! I need to spend some time seeing what else we can find to eat outdoors!
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