UAE back-to-school master plan

After long, lazy, unscheduled days, the summer holidays are about to be rudely interrupted by the start of the new school term. Here's how to help your child have a pain-free first day back.

Simone Leandro, who lives in Dubai and is mother to Lucas, 7, and Benjamin, 2. Courtesy Simone Leandro
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While you might be looking forward to the odd uninterrupted thought, your children will be mourning the loss of their freedom.

“A little preparation before the big day can go a long way in easing your child’s transition back to school,” promises Dr Gail Gross, a family and child expert in the US. “It’s important to be empathetic, compassionate and firm. Nurture your children, meet their needs and be reliable.”

Simone Leandro, who lives in Dubai and is mother to Lucas, 7, and Benjamin, 2, says: “Two weeks before school starts, I sit down with Lucas and we work out a schedule for the next few days to help prepare him for the new term. We include more educational games, earlier bedtimes and earlier wake-up times. We also go shopping and look for new school supplies that might cheer him up, such as coloured pencils. This helps him to get excited about the new school year.”

Here’s how to help your child with the back-to-school shift.

1 Arrange some late summer play dates

Social worries can be huge for kids and cause a lot of concern about returning to school. It’s easy to lose touch with classmates over the holidays, but by helping your kids get in contact with their buddies, you can reduce anxiety levels. “Encourage your children to send a postcard to a class friend or email them about their holidays,” suggests Adam Zargar, a child and parent life coach at 2b Limitless in Dubai ( Follow this up by inviting friends over so they can get excited about hanging out at school together.

2 Dig out that desk

In all likelihood, the corner of your child’s bedroom designated for homework is now buried under a pile of comics, Barbie dolls and jigsaw pieces. Clear away the desk together and ask your child what she needs to work productively, whether it’s a lamp or a higher chair. This will help them get back into school mode.

3 Start the school schedule in advance

“Preferably three weeks before the new term starts, write out the daily schedule on a poster and encourage your children to decorate it,” advises Zargar. “List the time your children will have to get up, have breakfast, leave for school and so on.” Zargar stresses the importance of explaining why you are doing this and how it will reduce stress and anxiety. “If you start early, you can take your time adjusting your children to the new routine.”

4 Plan a fun weekend

Ask your child what they would like to do after their first week back at school, so they have something to look forward to. “This should be presented as a reward for smiling and getting on with the routine of going back to school, not as a reward for not arguing and throwing tantrums,” advises Zargar.

5 Talk through the

first day

It’s important to ask your kids what worries them and offer reassurance. Try to open up the subject by discussing their new classroom, their work and who they’ll sit with at lunchtime. Perhaps they’re worried about the bully from last year, or the thought of tackling mathematical formulas is stressing them out. Talking through their fears with you will be a huge help when it comes to actually facing them.

6 Reset body clocks

Help your children wake up earlier by making sure that they are in bed in good time. “Over the space of a few weeks, bring their bedtime 20 to 30 minutes forward, every night, until it’s where you want it,” advises Zargar. To make this work, parents will also need to wake children up earlier to ensure they’re sleepy in the evening. “Have a special breakfast for early risers to reward their good habits,” suggests

7 Flex their mind muscles

In the last couple of weeks of the summer, it’s a great idea to make reading a daily habit. Reviewing maths facts and exercising their writing muscles is also recommended for kids who might not have done much academic work over the summer.

8 Exude positivity

Children take their cue from their parents. “If parents are calm, reassuring, optimistic and supportive, children will feel both confident and competent,” says Gross. Kids often magnify their parents’ feelings, so try to express your excitement about the start of school and hopefully it will catch on.

9 Be prepared

Help your child organise and set out what she needs the night before school starts. Homework and books can be put in their backpacks by the door, clothes should be laid out in their bedrooms and lunch boxes filled.

10 Send first-day comfort

If your child is anxious, put a little note in their lunch box to let them know that you’re thinking of them. Reassure them that it’s natural to be a bit nervous, but that you’re sure that they’ll be fine once they’re back with their classmates and into the school routine.

11 Clear your schedule

If possible, try to be around after school during the first week of term so that your children have the space to talk things through with you. Some children will be chatty and want to discuss every detail; others may need to relax first and talk later.

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