GUEST BLOG: Preparing for school

written by Frances Mulligan

I am Frankie, Mum of three and wife of one. I started my teaching journey while pregnant with my now 11-year-old. Since graduating I have worked in mainly new entrant classes. I have loved my time as a new entrant teacher and supporting children and their families as they begin their school adventure. When my middle child started school I stepped back from my new entrant role so I could focus more on my own children. I am now working part-time in a special school and work full time as Mum to my three not so small people.

Check out her blog here or follow her on Facebook.


Starting school is a massive deal. Not just for you as a parent but for your new five-year-old too. Even children who have been in fulltime daycare struggle with the adjustment.

School is very different than day care/crèche/ kindy. It requires much more independence and self-care, even at a New Entrant level. School also involves a way of thinking that many children are not used to. Many parents don’t realise what a huge adjustment it can be and often wonder why their child is so tired and awful at the end of the day.

That is not to say that every child will behave the same when they start school. My three were all so different over those first few months. My eldest handled the adjustment well. She was fairly familiar with the classroom setting as she had spent time in my class during school holidays, weekends and after school.

My middle child was a whole different experience; he would get home from school at 3 pm and lie on the stairs crying and crying. Eventually, I’d make him a toasted sandwich and put him to bed. He would sleep from 4 pm right through until morning, he was exhausted! Our youngest was different again. He was so familiar with school and the people because school has been part of his life since he was born. However, he was a five-year-old living in a pre-teens world. Being dragged around to after school activities and often having dinner in the car as he wouldn’t last until we got home. He also didn’t do as much “homework” as his teachers would have liked.

So, with my experiences as a parent of three now school-aged children and an ex-New Entrant teacher (still a teacher just in a different role now) I have come up with some guidelines to (maybe) help you and your child have a successful transition to school.

I have already written an article about how to best prepare you, preschooler, for school (you can find that here). This is what comes next.

First things first, what to pack in the school bag. Every school will have their own requirements around stationary and book bags so best to talk directly to them in regards to this.

  1. A lunchbox is pretty important and a school lunchbox is a bit different from a daycare lunchbox for two main reasons. Your child needs to be able to open everything themselves and they will most likely only be given two 15 minute opportunities to eat. This is of course just a guide as every school is different but typically a school breaks itself into three blocks with a morning tea break around 10.30/11 am and a lunch break at 12.30/1 pm. Children are encouraged to sit and eat for the first part of break but once that time is up I guarantee your kid will be up and playing whether they have eaten or not. The best way to help your child eat a proper lunch in that short time is by giving them a variety of small things that will fill them up. Eg, yoghurt, fruit (chopped up), eggs, meat, nuts (check your school’s policy around this), small sandwiches etc. Your child is far more likely to work their way through these than they are to navigate a large filled roll or a whole apple in the time frame. While teachers/teacher aides will most likely be supervising eating time it is unrealistic to expect on a person to unwrap 20 sandwiches, open 20 bags of chips or peel 20 mandarins. If your child cannot manage these tasks themselves then help them learn these skills at home. In the meantime make it easier for them by not wrapping items and peeling/chopping fruit.
  2. A change of clothes (even underwear!). Most children are well and truly toilet trained by the time they turn 5. However, it is not uncommon for children to regress a bit once they start school, particularly with their toileting. This happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the toilets are too scary so they don’t go. Some children get confused around when they are allowed to go and the protocol around asking (make sure you talk to them about this with the teacher so everyone is on the same page). So, pack them a change of “easy to put on clothes” and let them know they are there (also include a wet bag for those dirty clothes coming home or the bag will stink!).
  3. A rain jacket and jersey! The weather can change so quickly and it is easy to assume your child will be inside if the weather turns nasty. This may not always be the case. For example, in an emergency, your child’s class may be evacuated. You don’t want them waiting to be collected in the rain with no coat (this happened to a couple of my students after a big earthquake, we, of course, gave them our coats and kept them warm but we couldn’t have managed if the whole class were without jackets).
  4. A wide-rimmed sunhat. This will most likely be in your child’s school policy. No hat, no play.

When sending your child to school it is very tempting to send them looking great in their best clothes. It is a better idea to keep those clothes for best and send them in easily washable clothes that you won’t mind getting messy. Also, keep in mind that your child is independent at school so make sure they are wearing clothes they can take off and on themselves. If your child can’t yet tie shoelaces then pop them in Velcro shoes until they have learned.

Expect the unexpected. You chill and happy five-year-old may turn into a tired monster after school. They are tired, they may not have eaten properly, they have had to manage new situations. School is hard! Most children tend to fall apart after school despite being complete darlings all day at school. The teacher may not believe you as they never see the behaviours your child is bringing home. Be patient and don’t expect too much from your child after school. If they are too tired to read the reading they have bought home, read it to them. The first few months at school are definitely an adjustment period. I also recommend not starting new extra-curricular activities in the first few months after starting school.

Most new entrants cry at school drop off. This can be very difficult as a parent to watch your child crying and clinging to you. I guarantee that they will be happy and playing with their friends only a few minutes after you have left. The best thing you can do to support them is reassure them they will have a good day and remind them you (or whoever is picking them up) will see them in a few hours. If your child continues to be upset after you have left the teacher will let you know. Remember that your child’s teacher experiences this every day and wants your child to be happy.

Finally, don’t compare your child to others. They all learn and develop at different rates. If the school has concerns about how your child is progressing they will talk with you. If your child is up for it then practising their sight words and reading with them is the best head start you can give them. Don’t worry if it isn’t happening quickly, your child is learning so many new things right now and it will take them a while to adjust to all the changes.

How to tell if you need a social media cleanse

It’s a digital high. We live in an extremely hyper-connected world and it is doing serious damage to people’s mental health. A lot of people don’t even realise how much they rely on the positive praise, the ‘likes’, the constant desire for new followers and insta fame is ruining people.

This blog is a bit ironic for me considering I can relate to SO much of the below but social media is my job (no, I am not an influencer – I manage Social Media for a large government organization) so I do think I am online a little more than usual. In my defence, it’s not all personal and I’ve made huge changes in the way I use my own social media.

If you can relate to any of the below then maybe, it’s time for a social media detox.

  1. You think in Facebook posts – I am 100% guilty of this. I do it all the time for work and I am generally pretty good at guessing what the theme of the commentary is going to be like. Something happens, you manage to capture it and you already know it’s going to be a banger on social. I mean hey, we’ve all been there – that’s exactly why I am writing this.
  2. You don’t have out with your friends offline – Sadly, guilty of this also. Because many of us over-share, we already know what our friends have been up too. While it is pretty damn cool, it can also be super damaging to real-life relationships. You know what I am talking about, that person your friends on Facebook with but didn’t actually say hi to in real life? Yeah, that.
  3. You’re stressed out – I mean c’mon, who isn’t? Social media ISN’T helping. Create positive habits to stop you from reaching for your device.
  4. You complain you don’t have time to do things – if you put down the phone down a bit more you’d be amazed at this newfound gap in your schedule. Do something useful with your time like smashing some fitness goals, meet up with your friends or actually be present in the moment with your family.
  5. You think you need social media to be happy – you were happy before social media existed, so you’d be fine without it.
  6. You think too much about what others think – I know that some of this is actually my anxiety, but it certainly isn’t helped by social media. We are quick to crowdsource ideas before thinking for ourselves. Social media can be instantly gratifying. Post that selfie and watch the likes roll in. Do you actually feel better though? Is it even real?

I was like tick, tick, tick to all of the above. Sad right? It is currently the way the world is.

Don’t get me wrong, social media isn’t all negative. It’s been my career for over 10 years so I do believe I am in a good position to comment on the negative effects. I have been there. I have been so consumed by likes that I failed to see what was going on around me. I needed the validation from people – it made me feel good. But only for a moment. I blog, I over-share but over the past 12 months, I have really limited the time I spend because I need to, for my mental health.

There is plenty of research out there that can associate social media with things like anxiety and depression, obviously, the results are only a correlation – meaning relationships exist between usage and health issues, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the social media and technology cause it.

I have deactivated my pages so many times over the last few years, something I have vowed not to do in 2020.  If I can’t just not open an app then I have an actual problem. It is an addition. The key here is limiting your usage.

In a world where we are doing it for the gram, food porn is an actual thing and adding dog ears to your selfie is totally normal now we need to make some healthy boundaries before it completely takes over our lives.

There are many good health benefits to picking up the phone less like:

  • Better sleep – I am SO bad for this. Mindlessly scrolling a newsfeed instead of trying to sleep. I have suffered from insomnia a large portion of my life and my phone is definitely not helping.
  • Healthier relationships – You will actually interact with people in person and have genuine feel-good moments. Do you lay next to your partner in bed or sit on the couch both on your phones? Yeah, there is something wrong with the fact we can’t just enjoy people’s company anymore.
  • You can’t have FOMO for something you have never seen.

Keep in mind, all of this stuff is just potential benefits. I am not saying social media is so bad for you and that you need to stop immediately – it pays my bills and I have no intentions to sacrifice my social profiles.

If you’re happy with your level of usage, then you do you boo. If you don’t then you may want to think about making some changes.

How to have a stress-free Christmas

I know right, we have children. Christmas is never going to be stress-free, but we can at least do a few small things to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that comes with the holiday season.

This year I’ve taken 3 weeks off work. I know right. I don’t even know myself. This is the first time in YEARS that I have taken extended need and god do I need it.

It’s not what’s under the tree, its who’s around. I love Christmas because it is such a family orientated day. Over the last few years, we’ve lost family members and I really take for granted all those Christmases that I may not have been 100% present in the moment. Go see that family member you may not have seen for a while, drop a bottle of wine on a friend’s doorstep and just take a bit of time to appreciate the people you’re surrounded by. There are some people who are alone on Christmas and this hurts my heart.

Declutter before Christmas. I am only just jumping on this bandwagon this year but omg, what a genius idea. I’ve been talking for ages about doing a ruthless clean-up of the house due to the amount of constant anxiety it all gives me. Honestly, some would say our house isn’t even bad, but I know where it is, where it sits completely unused – it bugs me. I need to simplify and what better time to do it than before you get a bunch of new stuff.

Be realistic. If your kids are anything like mine, the life span of a toy is about 3 weeks if its lucky before one of them breaks it (generally Baxter). This year I am following the whole want, need, read, wear. They’re kids, c’mon. Every occasion where presents have been involved the kids get so overwhelmed and end up losing it too early in the day.

Budget. Have a think about how much you want to spend this year in total. How much per person? Having a budget can help keep you on track so you can hopefully spend less and save more over the holiday period.

Make a list and check it twice. Compile a list of everybody you want to buy a gift for or acknowledge (think Neighbors, Teachers, Sports Coaches). Nothing is worse than waiting until the last minute to buy something for somebody. Trust me, I know. I am running around at the moment trying to sort a couple of presents that slipped my mind.

Embrace the chaos. I got totally wrapped up in Pinterest and had the most unrealistic expectations on what I want my house and holidays to look like. You know what I mean, the gorgeous tree, the presents that have actually sat out and haven’t been torn open from what looks like a wild animal. Christmas is about the kids and they’re going to have a blast no matter what you do.

Kindness

Kindness is one of the things I want to see more of. It’s one of those feelings or moments that tend to stick with me the most. At that moment, a person is presented with various options – and they chose to be kind. That is pretty cool, we need more kindness in the world.

I was at Kmart today (again.. I know, I’m on a cleaning/organizing buzz). Baxter wouldn’t listen and Lily well, don’t even get me started. Some amazing woman helped me out, wrangling a trolley and fighting lily into said trolley. The gesture and kindness went such a long way. I was visibly stressed and losing patience at a rapid rate.

Kmart was their last chance before we went home.. I was taking Baxter into Toyworld in town to pick a toy after he went poos on the toilet (long story) and Lily completely lost the plot, wouldn’t listen, was having the mad tantrums and kept running off. I have never been so embarrassed and had to walk out only 5 minutes after getting them out of the car and into the store. I had to leave, I was losing my control.

I didn’t know the woman who chose to stop and help me and that is the beauty of it. Some beautiful stranger seen me struggling, she had a child with her so can probably relate. I felt embarrassed that I had indeed needed the help and that I wasn’t able to control both of the kids at that time but I was so grateful. It made me smile and brought me back down to reality (I was pretty wound up after the Toyworld incident). Her actions completely changed my day.

Isn’t it incredible that one moment can change your entire day or mindset? When was the last time you showed kindness? Maybe a random act to a stranger and paid it forward.

A positive mind and a full heart can have a huge impact on your wellbeing.

Here are a few ways you could show kindness this coming week I did a mass google but these stood out to me and I can proudly say I currently do these things:

  • Smile and say “hello” or “good morning” to a stranger walking down the street
  • Pay for the person’s coffee behind you
  • Create a care package for someone feeling under the weather
  • Let another driver merge into your lane – and don’t hate them for it (K, I don’t do this much – but I’ll try)
  • Thank a service person such as a police officer or fireman for their hard work and dedication to serving others – massive YES.
  • Give up your seat on the bus/train. Does it matter if they’re pregnant or elderly? If they look like they could do with a seat – give them one!
  • Always keep your word
  • Stick up for a person who has been treated wrongly – no good talking about it after, take action now
  • Let someone, who only has a few items, go ahead of you in the checkout line of the supermarket.

Next time you see a mum struggling (or anybody for that matter), help them out – we’ve all been there x

Thank you, whoever and wherever you are. You made a shitty day, a little less shitty.

Finding my way

My mental health has not been good as of late. I am just going to come right out and say it right now. To be honest, I feel like I say this a lot but the last few weeks has been a real eye opener for me.

I have realised the importance of self-care and I am now on a journey to make changes in my life that will directly impact my mental health and I would love for you to come on the journey with me.

One of the biggest things I have noticed is how a lot of people relate their anxiety back to clutter, whether it be in their daily lifestyle or in their mind. If you’re a parent then I don’t need to remind you that more toys = more crap to pick up. I am not sure I could live a ‘minimalist’ lifestyle but I definitely need to stop buying shit and am so guilty of keeping things unintentionally like old make up, clothes, shoes etc. So, I am on a mission. To de-clutter my life and my mind. I’ve been doing a tonne of research and can’t wait to start sharing it all.

I have poor routine and poor sleep, all of which directly affects my mental health. I use things like social media which link back to depression – social media, media in general and online bullies. I plan to tie in regular periods of ‘offline’ time to be more present with my family and friends while also striking a balance because my full-time job revolves around social media and of course, its where this amazing community of people are.

I am not putting a time frame on this but I am getting cracking start away. I am already putting small things in place and am noticing a change so it gives me hope that I can do this.

How can minimalism help a mama out? From reading many different articles, it seems many mothers are turning to minimalism to reduce their stress and anxiety.

Minimalism is the processing of simplifying yourself so that you can stop spending your time, energy and emotions on non-essential parts of your life.

Sounds easy right? It’s not. It’s a process, but one I believe will work.

Comment below if you’re keen to come along for the ride to reinventing yourself.