This time of the year always creates a knot in my belly. Back to reality, back to school. The French call it 'la rentree', the return to normal way of life.
Yet none of it is normal for children - a new classroom, new desk and for some a new school even.
The flurry of wearing different uniform, packing a brand new lunchbox creates some excitement, but for many the overwhelming sensation is uncertainty. Will there be nice teachers? Who will sit next to me? Will there be more homework? Will the lessons be harder? Will the other children like me?
One of their biggest fears is being separated from one's parents. After long days doing little all summer, surrounded by friends and family, there is a brutal shift of gear. Alarm goes off before it's light, rushed breakfasts, panic being late in the car, saying good-bye and a sea of new faces in the playground.
The toughest year is start of senior school or big school, with all its older pupils and scary big buildings. 11 is often the age confidence starts to crumble in children. The beginning of puberty creates emotional and physical changes; peer pressure to be or look a certain way also kicks in around then, fuelled by the ever increasing presence of social media; and new friendship groups form, causing exclusion and bullying, even.
Given all of this that first day, that one day, today or Wednesday, can be a truly defining one.
But that's part of growing up, I hear many of you say, which is of course true. But easing your children into the new year, could make all the difference.
There are various techniques for this and here are in my opinion the most effective ones.
-Get very organised, as early as possible. Leaving things till the last minute - whether buying maths kits of sewing name tags can heighten anxiety.
-Celebrate three things. A great way to create good vibes is to go round the table in the evening and talk about the three things everyone has liked most about their first day back. It focusses the energy on the positives, and in turn can manifest them. Doing this exercise for 21 days minimum can contribute towards one's well-being.
-Tea time play dates. Find out who's in your child's class and organise fun meet and greets after school. It may seem obvious but these ice breakers can take the edge of nerves about the unknown.
-Write out your fears. Sometimes it is hard for children to express their anxiety verbally, so encourage them to write a journal or do a story about their first day back at school. If writing isn't their thing get them to paint it.
-Do interactive school-themed activities. Everyone dreads the books, calculators and pens so make them fun by baking a cake shaped as one. Or even wrap a Rolo or Smartie chocolate tubes in paper and stick a fake nib on the end to form a giant pencil.
-Make the morning as light-hearted as possible. Prepare their favourite breakie instead of trying to get them to eat brown toast. Play the hit of the summer in the car. Put their top treats in their packed lunch.
-Plan something they love for the first weekend. Having a treat to look forward will help them get through a turbulent first week.
-Share your first day stories. Sometimes we forget we were the same, and first hand memories can be the best way of showing that our fears are universal. I will never forget spilling water all over my tray in the canteen, I was so embarrassed!
-When you say goodbye, try and hold back the excess emotion. I remember my mum tearing up in front of other parents, and whilst it was a genuine outpouring of love and concern, it made me feel like crying too. Be empathetic but try to stay cheerful, e.g. you'll be home before you know it.
-Take the time to listen. If the day didn't go to plan talk it out, listen to them and work out solutions together. Remind them everyone has a bad first day, even the Queen!Suggest a correction