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054: Daycare and school transitions

boy and dad

This episode explores why transitions can be stressful, the key tools and processes you need to have humming to support daycare and school admin, and Mia and Dinah’s top hacks for saving time, money and sharing the load.

Mia and Dinah reveal that in a survey they conducted earlier this year, one in three respondents reported that their child starting at daycare or school generated a significant amount of life admin.

Mia discusses how transitions, particularly when starting at a new daycare or school, can be hard for both parents and kids because we are letting go of the familiar and need to adjust to new ways, people and routines. We are hard-wired to resist change and it can trigger a stress response. There can be a sense of loss of what was, wishing things could stay the same and perhaps some fear and anxiety about what’s to come. Transitions are also an opportunity to lean on our strengths, reach a new equilibrium and bring a sense of renewal and growth. We can let go of old beliefs and assumptions with excitement and enthusiasm.

Given the potential emotion of the transition to a new daycare or school, ensuring your life admin is sorted is a tangible way you can make the change easier and reduce the stress for everyone.

Dinah discusses the key foundational life admin systems to have in place to make the transition easier:

  • Have one central dedicated shared document or checklist for you and your partner to store all the information, to-dos or discussion points with your partner and child. It’s important to get all that detail out of your head to reduce your mental load.
  • Set up a folder in your cloud storage to file all documents related to the daycare or school when you enrol, so that you can file as you go, making filing a Two Minutes Too Easy task
  • Use a shared life admin email address so all school communication can go there, and agree on a system for sharing the management of this inbox with your partner.
  • Ensure your password manager is installed across all your devices, so you can easily store the multiple passwords needed for school portals, uniform and book ordering etc.
  • Add frequently used form filling data to your password manager once so you can speed up the process of the endless form-filling.
  • Set up informal communication networks like a WhatsApp group with other parents
  • Plan any traditions that are important to you (eg photo on the first day) so that you don’t forget and it is calm and intentional, rather than rushed and last minute.
  • Consider the costs of a new school, such as fees, uniforms, books, technology, excursions and camps, so you can budget in advance and plan ahead if you prefer to buy second hand.

Mia talks about morning and evening routines, considering which things will change and what will stay the same. Some continuity is reassuring. You can preview what the new routine will look like by replicating the new schedule ahead of time as practice.

In terms of daycare transitions, particular life admin tasks to consider are:

  • putting your child on the waiting list which may be more than one year in advance
  • filling in enrolment forms including information about your child’s wellbeing such as sleeping patterns, emotional and social preferences, family circumstances and comfort items
  • proof of immunisation status – download a PDF from MyGov and consult GP if need catch -up vaccinations
  • procuring a second copy of your child’s comfort item in case it gets misplaced at daycare
  • applying for child care benefits via Centrelink
  • getting a Working with Children Check if you want to volunteer or spend time in the daycare
  • dress code & wardrobe – you might need to do some shopping
  • adding the new schedule and any key dates like centre closures to your family calendar including orientation dates
  • adding everyone who might potentially collect your child as authorised contacts
  • borrowing or buying picture books about the transition to share with your child ahead of time
  • ordering personalised labels and labelling belongings
  • creating a checklist for what needs to be packed in the daycare bag
  • adding passwords for sign-in apps and parent portals to your password manager.

In terms of primary school transitions, make time for life admin tasks such as:

  • selecting the school based on what is important to you
  • having all the paperwork you need for the enrolment form
  • fostering friendships with children going to the same school 
  • planning for daily lunchboxes (particularly if your daycare has provided food), Mia created a lunchbox matrix, Dinah made lunches the night before
  • practice how long it takes to get to school: walking/biking/driving beforehand
  • consider making time to explore the school grounds and showing your child the options of where they will be collected and where after school care is held
  • get feedback from your informal networks of other parents about what uniform items are actually essential and how strict the school is about uniform compliance
  • explore what the second-hand uniform options are so you know where to buy and sell
  • make sure you have two sun hats (a spare) as this is usually a compulsory item to play outisde during sunny school terms
  • consider having your surname only on any personalised name labels you order, so all your children can use the same labels
  • buy school shoes in advance so you can get the style/size you want and there is enough time to wear them in.

In terms of secondary school transitions, prioritise these life admin tasks:

  • you need to enrol by April/May of the final year of primary school or many years in advance for independent schools with longer waiting lists
  • start planning for the new transport arrangements – consider scheduling in some practive runs ahead of time
  • consider how homework will work – where they will do homework and what their afternoons will look like
  • if there are more pieces of uniform, work with your child to set up a system so they can remember what uniform items to take on which days
  • consider having an adult at home in the afternoons for the first few weeks of high school to check in with your child 
  • allow time to assist them with their technology set up and help them safely store their passwords
  • consider when you will give your child a mobile phone – this might be something you want to do several months in advance
  • find out the options for school canteen and cafes  – they might need a debit card or an account to purchase items.



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