Across Australia, the last week of January means the end of summer holidays and the beginning of a new school year. School age children mourn the loss of freedom, while many parents rejoice at the return to routine and (hopefully) a tidier home!
For those starting their first year in school, or moving from primary to senior school, there is a lot to prepare at this time of year. New uniforms and shoes, backpacks, lunchboxes, drink bottles, pens, pencils, books to be covered and all those nametags to be stuck on!
There are also all the worries kids have about a new school year: What will the teachers be like? Will I make new friends? Will the classes be lots of fun or too hard?
Liver Kids and their parents have all of these same activities and thoughts at the beginning of school, and a few more….
With a post-transplant Liver Kid starting Kindergarten this year, I found myself wondering what the new world of school would mean for us.
We have already experienced day-care and the seemingly endless sniffles and sneezes, as well as pre-school with the rough and tumble of the playground. What differences can we expect this year? And what should we talk to the teachers about to make sure they understand the health needs of our Liver Kid?
Fortunately, being part of the Liver Kids Australia community means that I can ask advice from other parents and learn from their experience.
Top Five Tips for Starting School
1. Be your child’s advocate
When your child starts school it is important for their teacher to understand the situation. Even if your child is very well, there might be things that you need to have modified for them, particularly in PE for example. Arrange to meet the teacher as early as possible in the school year, the week before your child starts is ideal. Keep in contact and speak up if something is happening that you aren’t happy with.
2. Teach your child how to advocate for themselves
This might be the first time your Liver Kid is spending lengthy periods of time away from the family. Make sure they knows it is OK to say if they feel uncomfortable with something. Talk to them about why it is important to keep healthy, and how to do that.
3. Focus on hygiene
Schools are full of germs, no question about it. Ask for hand sanitiser to be used frequently by everyone in your child’s classroom. Ask that your child is not sharing equipment with other students where possible. Tell the school you don’t want your child to share food with other students.
4. Normalise your child’s experience
There will be times when your child realises that they are a little bit different to the other students (blood tests, clinic visits, scars etc). Encourage your child to take a matter of fact approach. Sometimes there might be things they can’t do, and that’s just the way life is.
5. Don’t be afraid
It’s really hard to step away from constant involvement in your Liver Kid’s life. Trust that the school is staffed by professionals who know how to look after kids with a huge range of needs. Remember that this is a really exciting step for your child!
If you would like some information to help you have a conversation with your child’s teachers, Liver Kids has prepared an information page that you can leave with the school for their reference. You can download it HERE
If you have any questions or concerns about your child starting school or suggestions for other members of the Liver Kids community, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible.