Along with countless other parents I recently watched my baby head off to big school for the first time.
It’s been a pretty big change, but we’re quite lucky really because, while the situation is new, none of us feel like we’re new at the school. Rhys has been there for years now and Nerys is well and truly settled in with her classmates after getting to know them all in Rising 3s and Nursery.
I do remember how it felt at the start though.
The anxiety of what it will be like at the school gates. Wondering if anyone will actually talk to you or if you’ll be left out of all the cliques that you always hear about.
So for anyone who is going through that at the moment, for all the new parents heading to the school gates for the first time, here are a few words of reassurance for you.
First and foremost, don’t believe everything you’ve read online so far.
There are all sorts of posts out there about the 5 (or 10 or however many) types of mum you meet at the school gates. Posts that talk about the cliques that form with the working mums, the hippy mums, the hot-mess mums, and so on. And if you don’t feel like you fit any of those descriptions it can be quite worrying thinking about where you’ll fit in. And it must be even worse for the dads out there at times.
Don’t let these posts fool you; I’ve been doing the school run for over 4 years now and can honestly say I’ve not come across any of these stereotypical cliques.
People do naturally form little friendship groups but I’ve found that everyone has always been more than happy to chat with everyone else. There’s no queen bee waltzing around making everyone else feel bad about themselves. There’s no fashionista group standing at the gate judging those of us in jeans and hoodies.
There are just mums and dads trying to get their children to school on time.
If you’re still feeling nervous though, here are some little bits of advice that might help you to get chatting and possibly even enjoy those moments at the school gates:
- Smile. Even if you’re feeling really anxious, give people a smile if you catch their eye.
- Use your children to help. If you can see who they’ve made friends with, take the chance to say ‘hello’ to that child’s parents.
- Don’t worry about what you’re wearing. Honestly, unless you live in a super stylish part of the country, just wear what you want. Just steer clear of anything that might embarrass your children.
- Look for other parents who are on their own. It can be really intimidating to approach a group of people who are chatting, so find someone else on their own and go and say hi.
- Go online. Find out if there’s a Facebook group for your child’s class or yeargroup. We have one for both Rhys’ class and Nerys’ class and it’s been a great way to get to know the other parents a bit better and keep up to date with class news.
- Give it time. Keep it mind that it can take time to get to know the other parents and for friendships to form. Don’t rush things.
- Don’t take things too personally. If someone doesn’t return your friendly smile, or rushes off as you try to say hello, don’t immediately assume it’s about you. There could be a million reasons behind it. Everyone at the school gates is busy, trying to keep track of their child, wondering if they put the signed form back in their bag, planning their hurried route to work as soon as the door opens and their child goes in.
- Join in. If you really want to get to know people you can think about joining the PTA. It can be quite a commitment but also a great way to get involved with the school community.
It can be quite intimidating for the whole family when your child starts school.
And I know that at our school it can feel pretty manic in the mornings around the classrooms, as everyone tries to get to where they need to be on time. And it can be hard to strike up conversations and get to know people.
The afternoons at pick up time tend to be a bit calmer and there are often more chances to say hello and chat with the other parents. So keep that in mind when you’re thinking about trying to strike up a conversation.
Other than that, just smile, be friendly and give it time.