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The back-to-school survival guide for parents in Malta

by Yellow 13 Days

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It’s that time of year - when over 55,000 children in Malta and Gozo return to school. While many parents welcome the comfort that comes with settling into a routine, they also dread all the prep-work that precedes it.

From queuing to buy uniforms, to getting the stationery organised and reprogramming your little ones to sleep early - the to-do list can seem endless.

We’ve gathered practical tips from parents and compiled them into lists that will help guide you through this busy period.


Before school starts.

Preparing to go back to school can be fun…. for children. Choosing a new satchel, exploring new books, laying out the stationery - is all very exciting. But not so much for parents. They get the “responsibility” part of the job. They have to make sure they’ve checked every box in time for the first day while juggling work and other commitments. Here are some tips to help you stay on top.


Get the basics sorted.


Uniforms.

Start by getting your child to try on last year’s summer, winter and sports uniforms (including shoes and belts) to determine whether they still fit. If you do need to buy a uniform keep in mind that children grow fast. You might want to wait before buying the summer uniform that will be worn in seven months’ time. Don’t forget to label each item. Oh, and get extra socks and PE tops to avoid any last-minute laundry drama.


Books and supplies.

Your child’s school should provide a list of all the books and stationery needed. If you’re too busy to head to the bookshop, you can place your order online. Some outlets also offer a book-covering and labelling service - unless you want to delegate the task to your child.


Prepare your child for the first day.


A few weeks before school starts you may want to start preparing your child for the transition from summer to winter mode. Here’s how:

  • Planning your mornings, afternoon and evening routines can ease the pressure.
  • Check the school calendar to book off days for activities such as parents’ day and sports day.
  • Book extracurricular activities early since popular places tend to get taken.
  • Have an emergency plan - who will pick up your children if you can't?
  • Try to remind yourself that all will be fine and, if need, reach out for help from family, friends or professionals.

Bonus tip: Have your children’s eyes checked before the school year starts. Children may not realise they have a vision problem so, without routine tests, there's a risk they could go undiagnosed and hold back their development.


Prepare yourself for the first day.


Parents suffer from all sorts of pre-school anxiety. From stressing about not managing to juggle their time to worrying about leaving their children with “strangers”. Mentally planning ahead helps.

  • Planning your mornings, afternoon and evening routines can ease the pressure.
  • Check the school calendar to book off days for activities such as parents’ day and sports day.
  • Book extracurricular activities early since popular places tend to get taken.
  • Have an emergency plan - who will pick up your children if you can’t?
  • Try to remind yourself that all will be fine and, if need, reach out for help from family, friends or professionals.

Bonus tip: Embrace the traffic. This might sound weird but, think about it. Unless you (and your kids) can wake up and leave home early enough to beat the traffic, your only other option is to embrace it. So if you’re planning on driving your kids to school, try to find ways to use the time you spend in traffic constructively. You could listen to an audiobook together and feed your child’s imagination with some great stories. Or play games like eye-spy to bond and pass the time.


Once school starts.

Once you’ve overcome the hurdle of the first day, the next challenge is keeping up the momentum. Apart from ensuring that everything runs efficiently, you also want to assure you maintain a healthy, stress-free environment at home.


School lunches.


Preparing healthy school lunches is undoubtedly one of the biggest headaches for parents. Here are a few pointers that can help.

  • Reintroduce cold lunches a few weeks before school starts. For small children you could stock up on sandwich cutters for a more fun-shaped snack.
  • Organise lunch ingredients in one part of the fridge for quick and easy access.
  • Buy lunch boxes or reusable bags to help save the environment.
  • Make a week's worth of sandwiches on Sunday and freeze them in portions. Unthaw them the night before.
  • Have two lunch boxes which you can rotate. This will allow you to prepare lunch when you have time, even if this means your kids are still at school.



Nail the morning routine.


We all know how mad school mornings can be. The rush to get your child fed, clothed and out of the house on time. This is where being organised really pays off.

  • Encourage your kids to prepare their school clothes and bag the night before. If they’re too young, help them.
  • You (the parents) do the same - pick your outfit and prepare your bag, laptop etc the night before.
  • In the first few weeks set the alarm 15 minutes before you think you need to wake up. You can adjust wakeup time as you settle into routine throughout the year.
  • Keep breakfast straightforward. Agree on what’s for breakfast the night before to avoid morning tantrums.
  • Play fun upbeat music while everyone is getting ready.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the car with things such as a comb, wipes, shoe cleaner.


Afternoon and evening routine.


When the children come home from school, the juggling act continues: homework, extracurriculars, and your commitments.

  • Establish a homework station and create compartments (such as folders or boxes) to help your child keep things organised.
  • Ensure there are no distractions in the homework area.
  • Establish a time for homework and be a good example by using that time to work on your own projects.
  • Make sure your child has time to relax and unwind between getting home, lunch, homework and extracurriculars.
  • Have at least one day a week when the child picks an activity.
  • Re-establish screen-time rules that may have relaxed during the summer holidays.
  • Try to ensure that all the family has dinner together at the table. If this is not possible establish some form of family time.
  • Make sure bottles and containers are washed and ready for use for the next morning.
  • Ensure all (clothes, lunches etc.) are ready for the next morning.
  • Set the alarm.

Bonus tip: Offer end-of-week rewards if everyone sticks to the routine. This is also a great opportunity to look back at the previous week and talk about it as a family.


No one ever said parenting was easy. The one thing that keeps us going is knowing that the effort will pay off with children who are good, educated people you can be proud of.


The joy of seeing them thrive at school also helps. So, go on, encourage your little ones to love learning by visiting any of these bookshops listed on Yellow. Then help them discover their creative side by exploring the world of crafts.


This is a time for discovery. Keep discovering - yellow.com.mt.

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