How to Navigate Elementary School, But This Time As a MOM! 8 Things I wished I’d Known

My oldest daughter entered kindergarten, which meant for the first time I was a mom venturing into the new world of elementary school. I was excited and anxious for Thea, but what I didn’t realize was, how nervous I’d be for myself.

All of a sudden I was a little girl again trying to fit in. While Thea was trying to make friends in kindergarten, I was trying to make friends with their moms. It was tough. It seemed like all the other moms knew one another. I kept thinking to myself, how the heck does everyone know each other? Aren’t we all new to this thing?

Every day I would stand outside Thea’s classroom waiting to drop her off or pick her up and fiddle with my phone trying to look busy. That way I could avoid looking awkward as I stood there with no one to talk to.

Sometimes I would smile and have a small conversation with a mom. But for the most part, I felt like I didn’t fit in.

I would say it wasn’t until the end of the year, that I really started to meet some moms and feel like I had this new world somewhat figured out. But I wish it wouldn’t have taken me all year to get there.

So this is for all the moms who are venturing into this new world soon.

Here are 8 things I wished I’d known beforehand:

  1. Not everyone knows everyone: It may seem like you’re the only one who doesn’t know anyone, but you’re not. There are some moms who know each other and that’s only because it’s their second or third child going into elementary school. But for the most part, you are in the same boat as the other moms, brand new to this. So here’s my advice on how to get to know the other moms. Watch who your kid naturally gravitates towards and plays with at school. Then talk to that mom’s kid and ask if she wants to get together for a play-date. Play-dates are great for two reasons. One, it will help you get to know the other moms. And two, it will help your child get to know the other kids quicker and therefore feel more comfortable in kindergarten. For my daughter, she is quite shy, so this really helped her out.
  2.  Talk to the mom veterans: For some moms it’s their second or third child entering school, so that’s why they know a lot of people already. These moms are good to connect with, as they will give you the 411 on who the good teachers are, what’s been going on at the school, and any other tips that may be helpful.
  3. Volunteering goes a long way: I was told it was important to be involved in the school, but I immediately dismissed the idea because I didn’t see the value in it. I was already working full-time so how the heck was I going to manage additional work? But my mom who’s a retired teacher did see the value in it and volunteered her time on behalf of our family. By the end of the year, I realized why it was so important. The best way I can describe it is like this, you know when a co-worker goes out of their way to help you on a project or work assignment? How did that make you feel? Pretty good right? So good in fact, you would now be willing to go the extra mile for that person. Well, that’s how a teacher feels when you put in some volunteer hours to help them out. Kindness goes a long way, and if you have more than one child, you will be at the school for a while. So trust me when I say, it’s worth it. If your like me and don’t have a lot of extra time, you can do other things like get your husband to volunteer 😉 or drop off donuts to the staff room with a thank you card.
  4. Get involved with the PAC: This is a group of parents that organize fundraisers to raise money. The money helps fund additional things that’s outside the districts budget such as laptops for the kids. If you don’t have a lot of time, don’t worry about trying to be on the PAC, but I would suggest attending a few meetings so that you know what’s going on. You may even consider volunteering for a few events that they put on throughout the year. This is a great way to get to know other parents and to show the school that you support them. I can’t speak on behalf of all PACs but for ours, they have a Facebook page to keep parents updated on what’s happening at the school. I found this to be really helpful. So, check with your PAC and see what type of communication tools they use and get connected.
  5. Hang Around After School: When the weather is nice, stay after school and let your kids play on the playground for a while. Your kids will burn off energy and it’s another opportunity to meet moms.
  6. Ask the Teacher: If you have questions, concerns, anything at all, don’t be afraid to ask your child’s teacher. Keep updated on how your kid is doing. Ask if there is anything they need extra support on and who they tend to play with in class. Your child’s teacher has a wealth of knowledge so don’t be afraid to take advantage of it.
  7. Surround yourself with other moms who are supportive: There were days when I felt confident and like I had it all together. And then there were the days where I would go on a field trip with the class and Thea would refuse to do any of the activities and cling on to me. Days where all the other kids got up and stated why they loved their moms for mothers day and mine would barley whisper a word, days where I would be at a play-date and while all the kids were having a great time, mine was having a tantrum and screaming match. Those days were hard and left me crying and feeling vulnerable, sad, and wondering how I’ll ever get the courage keep showing up. Those are the days you need a good support system to let you know you are not alone. That your child is not the only one who has days like those. Find those moms and stick with them because that is what will get you through your first year of kindergarten.
  8. Don’t stress about the birthday parties: Once your child is in kindergarten, birthday parties take on a whole new set of rules. Who do you invite? Do you have to invite the whole class so no one feels left out? These are the questions I had, as Thea’s birthday got closer. To be honest, I felt so overwhelmed that I didn’t end up throwing Thea a friend’s birthday party. But as the year went on and I saw what other moms did, I started to figure it out. So here are some helpful tips for you from what I learned. If you want to have a birthday party for your child and invite their friends from school, talk to the teacher first to find out what the protocol is. For our teacher she was fine with inviting whoever, you didn’t have to invite the whole class. I found that some moms invited only girls or only boys, while others chose to invite the whole class. The other question I ran into was, when Thea was invited to a birthday party, were you supposed to go with her and stay? Could you bring siblings? Here’s what I found. If it was OK to stay and bring siblings, the invitation or mom would normally communicate that to you. For most parties, parents just dropped their kids off and picked them back up at the end. But if you’re a worrier like me or have a shy kid, just ask if you can stay. No mom ever had a problem with that.

So there you have it. I hope this will help you as you start your new journey into elementary school as a Mom. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone! We are all going through this together.

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