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What to Expect When Sending Your Child to School for the First Time

It has only been two days since Gavin started going to school, but here are some things I have learned since.

Behaviours to Expect

In the materials sent to us by the school, there was a section that talked about certain child behaviours to be prepared for while the child is adjusting to school.  The behaviours depend on the age of the child but these were some of the behaviours that parents can expect to see:

  • Clinging to parents and refusing to allow them to leave
  • Throwing tantrums
  • Toilet training regression
  • Not eating
  • Waking up at night/having bad dreams
  • Thumbsucking
  • Bedwetting
  • Expressing a desire to stay at home

Since starting school Gavin has displayed several of these behaviours.  Prior to starting school, we were making some good progress with Gavin’s toilet training.  He was wearing underwear at home and notifying me whenever he needed to poop and sometimes when he needed to pee (unless he was distracted by excitement or if we were going out).  Since starting school, he no longer wants to wear underwear (and these are his favourite Thomas and Friends underwear!) or sit on the toilet to pee, although he still tells me if he needs to poop.

Coincidentally, I have also noticed a marked change in Gavin’s eating habits.  He has been refusing to eat even his favourite foods and constantly rejecting liquids so much so that I have been concerned about his hydration.  The only thing he still willingly eats is junk food which alarms me greatly.

On his first night after school, he was terribly restless sleeping at night.  He woke up frequently wanting to nurse.  Then this morning, while in the car on the way to school, he weakly protested about going to school and told me he wanted to stay home to play trains instead.

It is still early days and I am sure there will be more to witness, however, my initial apprehension about sending Gavin to school have been allayed somewhat by his willing acceptance of school.  It is certainly a far cry from the reaction I received from him when I first attempted to take him to some Mother and baby classes.

The First Day is Not a Good Indicator

I had initially planned on staying at school with Gavin through the first two weeks.  I was completely bowled over when Gavin allowed me to leave him after a period of settling in on the first day.  Although he did not join the class or participate in any of the activities, Gavin appeared to receive his first day of school very well.

However, I have since been told that the first day is a poor indication of how well a child receives school.  On the first day, most children are excited and curious about school.  There are lots of new activities, toys and things to discover.  With so many distractions engaging the senses, some children do enjoy their first day of school immensely.

Sometimes, the rejection of school can be witnessed from as early as the second or third day – once routine has kicked in and the child realises this is the place he has to go to on a regular basis.  For other children, rejection may only occur after the first week.  So if your child appears to love his first day of school, don’t relax just yet.  You might not have seen the worst of it.  Hang in there for at least the first two weeks to get a better gauge of exactly how your child is taking to school.

Midweek Blues

A friend also warned me that even after the initial adjustment of school is over, you may still experience issues with your child about school.  Usually, the days at the start of the week and the end of the week are okay, but your child may reject school in the middle of the week. The teachers refer to this as the Midweek Syndrome and it is a common reaction in some children.

Increased Need for Time with Parents

Although it has only been two days since Gavin started school, I have noticed a change in Gavin’s behaviour.  When we are home, he looks for me more.  His demands for my attention have increased and his need for me to be near him even if we are not engaged in play have also increased.

Gavin has also displayed intense fear of abandonment.  Although I have never left school without telling him and being sure that he was okay with me going, Gavin reacted very badly when he thought hubby and I were leaving the house without him last night.

We had planned to go out together with Gavin and even told him he was coming with us.  Then hubby asked me to step out into the garden for a moment so he could have a word with me.  The moment I walked out the front door, Gavin went into hysterics and started howling for us to take him with us.  After this recent episode, I am not sure what to expect at school tomorrow.

Clearly, Gavin needs to make up for the lost time at school away from me by spending more time with me when we are at home.

No Hard and Fast Rules

As I mentioned earlier, I had planned to stay with Gavin through his first two weeks of school.  After discovering that he was more willing to join his class and interact with his teachers when I wasn’t around, I decided not to stay. The concession I made was that I would not leave the school until I was sure he was settled in and willing to let me leave.

While it is good to have a game plan for managing your child at school, I think it is important to remain flexible and alter the plan as the situation demands it.  In Gavin’s case, he appeared ready to stay at school without me and my presence appeared to be hindering him rather than assisting his progress.  Should he have wished me to stay, I would have.

Below is a photo I managed to snap from a distance when Gavin thought I wasn’t around.  He is busy talking to the teacher about the story in the book they were reading.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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