The Starting School Survival Guide: Everything you need to know when your child starts primary school

The working parent’s school survival guide
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Educational psychologist Alexis Beaver knows that many parents feel this way. However, she has some words of comfort. There will be lots of other moments you can enjoy too. It's all about living in the present. However, our emotions can sometimes catch us unaware. I became quite melancholy when my son started nursery, as it seemed to mark the end of his babyhood. And it does not matter whether it is your first child, second, only or last - you are sure to have some kind of reaction when they're grown-up enough to go to school. Teachers are well aware of the situation, not least because they have children too.

Debra Vaughan, a reception class teacher at Moriah School, also in north-west London, has one daughter just finishing year 1 and another starting in reception next month.

That's what I would want to hear in the same circumstances. But parents need to have confidence that we as teachers know how to help their children and that we've done this before. We are the professionals, but we also know that the children are very precious. The run-up to school can seem like a turning point in your and your child's life. If you are feeling a little bereft, try hard not to let your child pick up on this. Children can reflect their parents' moods very easily.

Instead, you need to be positive, whether you feel that way or not. This holds true even for parents who did not like school very much themselves. This is not about you - it is about your child. And of course, things have changed a great deal since your day, so you will soon discover that you are finding out almost as much as your child. I'm sure she'll make friends pretty quickly. Making friends, of course, is a key element when it comes to starting school, both for the children, and once again, their parents.

But parents should not get too stressed about this, as it comes with time. And it gets easier with each child. With Ben it'll be different. I feel much more prepared and will try to enjoy the summer holidays as much as I can. Because after that, it all changes. Sarah Ebner is the author of the 'Starting School Survival Guide: everything you need to know when your child starts primary school', published by White Ladder.

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That long walk through the playground can be nerve-wracking. If you are entitled, look for a family law solicitor who can take legal aid cases. UK website. It is best to start by getting some help from a good family law solicitor. You can find one on the Resolution website. They will be able to help you work out what the best thing for you to do is, and if you can do it yourself or if you will need legal help.

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If you have to take an issue to court, and you have evidence that you have suffered domestic abuse, you will not have to show that you have first looked at using a family mediation service. There are no set answers to these questions. You have to decide between you what will be best for your children and for you both.

Sometimes where the children will live and with who is obvious to you both, but often this is a really hard decision. The most important thing is for you both to be clear that you are making the decision based on what is right for your children at this point in their lives, rather than trying to make things fair between the two of you.

You may be thinking of an arrangement where the children live part of the week with one of you and the rest of the week with the other. It is also important to have clear agreements about who is responsible for what for example, who will be responsible for healthcare appointments, making sure their shoes still fit, etc. For many families, it may be best for the children to live with one parent most or all of the time, and see their other parent regularly. If your children are a bit older, it is usually a good idea to discuss the options with them. For example, for teenagers you might agree when bedtime is, how late they can stay out with their friends, how long can they spend on the computer, will homework be checked, how much pocket money will they get and who will give it to them.

Bear in mind whatever arrangements you come to are unlikely to last forever. Most people need to reorganise things a few times as the children get older to accommodate their social lives or new clubs they want to join. Or there may be changes for you the adults, perhaps because of a new job or changes to your home life. This is a legal term for all the rights and duties a parent has towards a child. It does not give either parent the right to interfere unreasonably or unnecessarily in care arrangements put in place by one parent.

All mums have Parental Responsibility. All dads who are married to the mum or have been mentioned on a birth certificate issued after 1st December have Parental Responsibility. If you have adopted your child, have a residence order this will be an order made before April , or a Child Arrangements Order that says your child lives with you, you have Parental Responsibility. If you are a Second female parent and your child was conceived on or after 6th April and you were on the birth certificate you will have Parental Responsibility.

You can use the parenting plan online or have a copy sent in the post or print off your own version. A parenting plan can help you both to work out what is important in the care of your child, and how you will agree arrangements about small everyday things and big important decisions. Once you have worked out where the children will be living, you need to work out how you are both going to continue to pay for everything the child needs.

All parents have a duty to pay for the things their children need until they are 16, or up until they are 20 if they are still doing their A levels or equivalent study or training. This is usually called child maintenance or child support. Or you could agree that they will pay bills or buy particular things the child needs instead.

If the child will be living with each of you equally, how will you divide the cost of things like clothes, shoes, school lunches, pocket money, travel, and after school or weekend activities? If you are struggling to make your own agreement, it might be useful to see how much the government would make you pay. There is a reliable and comprehensive calculator on the Family Law Partners website. If you still cannot agree you could use the Child Maintenance Service. They will contact the other parent and work out what they should pay.

However both parents have to pay a charge for this service. Also beware it can take a long time for things to get sorted out using this service. If you would like some help and advice to work out the best way to arrange it for you - you could call the Child Maintenance Options helpline.

The law says that courts should not make court orders about children, unless it is clearly better for the child if they do. This is why courts will encourage parents to work out solutions themselves if it is possible. Before applying to court almost everyone will need to try mediation to come to an agreement first. You can find out more about mediation in our guide A survival guide to using family mediation after a break up. When the courts are asked to make a decision about the children the first consideration is what is best for the child, rather than what either of the parents want.

The starting point is always that it is important for children to have a good relationship with both parents, which means spending time with both parents unless that would not be safe. You might find that you can agree some things between yourselves but that mediation or a solicitor could help sort out some trickier issues. Going to court should usually be the last resort. It can often cause relationships to be permanently damaged, and leave the adults involved hurt, stressed, and poorer. Children can often be upset too, even if you are careful not to involve them directly. Agreeing arrangements between yourselves can be the best option for many people.

But if you feel that your ex is better at arguing his or her corner than you are and you are worried about trying to reach agreement alone then you should see if you can afford mediation or the help of a solicitor. A solicitor will advise you on what the court would consider a reasonable arrangement and help you think about things you may not have thought of yourself. Often arrangements that you can both agree to will work better than those that are forced on you for example by the court.

If you have young children you will need to parent them together for years to come. So if you can get off to a good start at the beginning by talking about the issues, this is likely to help everyone now and in the future. If you have recently split up or if you have a lot of history together, you will need to find ways to discuss this without all your emotions getting in the way. This might be to meet to discuss just this, perhaps in neutral territory. Some people manage to do it over email. This is where you meet together with the other parent and a mediator, who has been properly trained to help you put your feelings aside and focus on the issues that need to be sorted out.

Mediation is not a terribly cheap option but if it works well it can be money well spent. It can give you a calm setting where you are encouraged to listen to each other, and help get you a written agreement to move forward. Most people have to pay for family mediation. If you are splitting up, you could use family mediation to sort out all your issues, in which case expect it to take sessions. Whilst the fees are usually charged per person, it is open to you and the other parent to decide who will actually pay or how the cost will be shared — for example where one of you has a higher income.

If you are entitled to legal aid that is help from the government to pay for legal advice you can get mediation for free. If you have experienced any kind of domestic abuse during or after your relationship with your ex then mediation usually will not be right for you.

Mediation must be voluntary. You should not be bullied into going or bullied by your ex when you are there. If there has been domestic abuse in your relationship having a solicitor on your side to advise you should help a lot. If you cannot get legal aid, using a solicitor can be quite a bit more expensive than mediation. But it can still be relatively quick and can avoid all the expense and stress of going to court.

If you have to sort out issues around money or property, it can feel a lot safer to have an expert on your side, making your case for you. A solicitor will be able to advise you on your rights and how the court would look at your situation. A solicitor will also help you think through important things you may not have thought about. If you are entitled to legal aid that is help from the government to pay for legal advice it will be much cheaper, or even free.

You might find that one meeting with a solicitor to give you some initial advice and guidance will be money well spent. Make sure you call around and compare prices for similar services offered by different firms. If you have managed to come to an agreement, well done! Sometimes people think they want to go to court for the wrong reasons. Often, deep down, people hope the court will' reward' them or 'punish' the other parent for their past behaviour.

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If this is what you want, you will be disappointed. Parents also sometimes want to take their dispute to court because they think fighting every step of the way will show the children how much they love them. Making compromises to ensure the new situation will give the children what they need, even where that is painful for you, is much more likely to be effective. Before you think of taking it any further - now is the time to get some legal advice.

They will be able to help you work out if taking it court is a good idea. Another option is to speak to a barrister who is qualified to represent members of the public directly without a solicitor being involved. There are limits on what a barrister can do outside of representation at court but it may be a cheaper option if you just want to get some advice rather than have a solicitor to negotiate on your behalf.

The details of appropriately qualified barristers and an explanation of the way the system works can be found on the Bar Council's website. If you use a solicitor to advise you and a solicitor or barrister at court to represent you it will become very expensive very quickly. If you cannot afford to use a lawyer it will be daunting and difficult to represent yourself at court. The family court can decide who the children live with and how and when they see the other adults in their life. These orders are called child arrangements orders. The court can also make orders about specific issues for example, if you cannot agree about where they are going to go to school or whether the child should have an operation and things that parents may not do, like take the child abroad a 'prohibited steps' order.

But, we have provided an overview here to give you an idea of what will happen. Before you can go to court you will need to show that you have been to a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting to explore whether you could come to an agreement through mediation instead. In certain circumstances you may be exempt from going to a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting with your ex. For more information on this see A survival guide to using family mediation after a break up.

If you have not been able to reach an agreement yourself or with the help of a mediator or solicitor, then the next step is to issue a court application. This can be done by completing C form setting out what order you are asking the court to make and why. If you want to tell the court about any abuse within the relationship or towards the children there is a second form called a C1A to fill in too. If you are on a low income you may be able to ask the court for help with paying this fee so that you only pay some of it.

For more information on this see our know-how Getting help to pay a court fee in a civil or family case.

Further reading

Volunteers at your local PSU can help you complete and submit your forms to the court. At a later date they can offer guidance about how the court works and give moral support at your court hearing. They cannot give legal advice. Once you have applied to the court, it will generally fix a first hearing you may hear this called a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment.

Before the hearing you and the other parent should be contacted by Cafcass so that they can check if there are any particular issues that the court may need to be aware of. This will include checks with social services and criminal records. If you have a criminal record the court will only be concerned about offences it considers are relevant to the child.

The first hearing is used by the judge to explore the issues and find out whether there is some scope for agreement. The judge may ask a Cafcass Officer also known as a family court advisor to help with this. A large number of cases get sorted out at this stage, and often there is no need for an actual order, though the judge will generally record the agreement.

If you can't agree at this stage, the judge will set out the timetable for what will happen next. The Judge may refer both of you to consider mediation, if this has not been fully explored previously. He or she could order that a different Cafcass Officer investigates and writes a report. If the family has been known to social services it may be that the Local Authority is asked to undertake the investigation.

The Cafcass Officer will then arrange to see all the adults and the children involved; sometimes he or she will also speak to teachers and other adults who know the children. The preparation of this report could take between weeks and therefore the case would be adjourned and another hearing date be given. The judge can order that both parents attend what is known as the Separated Parents Information Programme. This is a short course of around 4 hours either on one day or split over two days where both parents attend and learn about how to parent better whilst separating. Parents do not attend on the same day.

So I changed tack. So we both try and be flexible and swap things about. It meant neither of us got paranoid that they liked it more at one place or another. It was particularly helpful when our daughter started trying to play us off against each other. He was happy to text though, so I just kept on texting.

Being on the same team as we beat up the baddies was incredibly good for breaking down the wall between us". We made a chart for both our flats to show what was happening each day and discussed it at breakfast each morning. And they exploit it! We found that they were playing us off against each other a bit, and we fell for it and started to buy bigger and bigger presents for them.

Or when he was late turning up and they were all ready in their coats. But now he just texts me if he's running late, and its okay. I wanted it to be special. But actually it was a bit much for them and for me. They like being at home or in the park too - just us being together. We could barely look at each other. But I tried hard to be nice about it. And it helped Amy, my daughter, that we could speak to each other, and I could come to the door. I was really worried about it. But my sister said her kids were like that anyway if they'd been out for the day, and I realised she was right. I talked to Mark about it and he agreed to try to get them to chill a bit for the last hour or so.

It took us a while to strike the right balance between ensuring we have enough time together and making sure the children still get to do the things they want to - like going to football and seeing their friends. I realised this was stressful and weird for them so started to find ways to mention their Dad and his new partner without asking them anything. It felt weird at first but it did the job. This is very hard to deal with. If you are the parent that has been looking after them up to now, this will usually feel horrible.

The first thing you need to do is try to deal with your feelings about it. Remember this happens at some stage in many families. Agreeing a change in where your child lives will, in most cases, be a really big decision which you need to think about carefully. Where there are already settled arrangements for children the Court will be reluctant to change them if there are no concerns about the care they are receiving. How old your child is and how mature he or she is will have a big impact on whether a move to live with the other parent is a good idea.

You might feel that a move would benefit your child and so it may be something you can agree to. But, you might be very concerned about it. It is helpful to know how the court tends to deal with this sort of situation. If your child is young and there are no worries about the care you are giving your child the court would usually say your child should stay with you.

If your child is older, say 11 years old or more then the wishes and feelings of your child will be listened to more. If you can, it will be helpful to tell them you understand. Discussing it calmly will also help you work out if this is just a whim or something they have been thinking about more seriously.

Try and have a chat with your child, and make a list of the reasons they want to move. Then, together, you could look at all the possible solutions. This might include increasing the amount of time they spend with their other parent, or changing how things work with you, as well as going to live with their other parent. If you have a good relationship with their other parent you could do this all together.

In this case, be careful not to agree anything with the child until you have discussed it with the other parent - instead just explore possibilities. One way to do it is to approach it again as if you are making the decision for the first time. Just like then, your priority is to make sure your child gets appropriate care. If you are struggling to come to a new agreement a family mediation service may be able to help.

A written agreement can be a helpful way to give you both a good understanding of your discussions and could be a clear document to go back to if there is any disagreement between you. It can also be helpful to include that the important rules for the child will remain the same and specify what they are. You should also agree what would happen if they change their mind and make it clear that it is ok for them to do that. Any agreement you reach between yourselves can be helpful but it is not legal binding so either one of you can change your mind about the arrangements at any time.

If you do agree to your child moving to live with their other parent be aware that it could be very difficult to arrange for your child to return to live with you once they are settled there. You may decide that you are not happy with the new arrangement. Unless the other parent agrees for your child to come back to your care then you may find you are stuck.

There may be no option other than applying to the court to ask for an child arrangements order that your child come back to live with you. The court will want to avoid more disruption for the child and so unless there are serious welfare concerns about your child being mainly in the care of their other parent the court is unlikely to agree to your child moving again.

A survival guide to sorting out arrangements for your children

Bear in mind that it is unusual for the court to make child arrangement orders about children over the age of 12 unless the child expresses agreement to the arrangements. When this happens it can feel really nice. But try not to see this as winning or a reason to start having another epic battle with your ex. You need to think about whether this is really the right thing for both you and the child.

The first thing is to ask them why they would like to live with you. Before you take it seriously you need to be sure that it is for good reasons. If they mainly see you on weekends or holidays, they may think it will always be like it is at weekends if they live with you. But they will still have to go to school, and do their homework, and go to bed at a reasonable time if they lived with you during the week.

I Went Back To 1st Grade For A Day

You will sometimes get tired and cross with them or have to lay down the law just like their other parent. Would they be able to stay at the same school and clubs? If not, would they be willing to move? Children do not always think through all of the consequences of what they wish for. You also need to work out if you really want to take this step — if it is not right for you, perhaps because of other factors in your life, then it may fail and cause more harm than good.

If you do want to take this forward, it is best to approach it as delicately and co-operatively as you can. Contact the other parent and see if you can work together to come to a solution. It may be that the best option is just to change things a bit as that would avoid the disruption of the child having to get used to a new home and family life. If your child would just like to spend more time with you, would it be better to change the arrangements so they see you more often, or stay over for longer?

While a shared care arrangement might not have been best to start with, are they big enough for it to work better now? Or would it really be best if they moved to live with you? Many families who have been through this have found it useful to draw up a sort of contract between the two parents and the child.

You should also agree what would happen if they change their mind. You only need to involve the courts when you cannot agree. If your child is under 12 or 13 years old then the court is unlikely to decide that they should live with you just based on what your child says they want, if there are no reasons to be concerned about the care they are receiving from their other parent.

This is because the court considers that change is disruptive which is not good for children. They may be upset or distressed at the idea and your instinct as a loving parent is often to support them in their decision and help them solve their problem. Children often use avoidance of the other parent to avoid dealing with difficult emotions so if you can, you need to try to help them address these feelings. Sometimes it is something as simple as not being allowed to take possessions from one home to the other, having different rules, or for small children there being something in the other home that for some reason frightens them.

Or maybe, they are finding the awkwardness between you and their other parent as you hand them over just too painful. You should aim to make it as easy as possible for your child to change their mind.

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Discuss it with their other parent. Make sure that they understand that you are trying to help the situation. If you can, agree a plan to try to deal with it.