Ways to prepare your little prince (or princess) for the new school term



Like thousands of parents across the country (myself included), the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are no doubt spending these last few days of the summer holidays preparing for the new school term.

Four-year-old Prince George is due to start at Thomas’s Battersea next Thursday, an £18,000-a-year school whose alumni include the supermodel Cara Delavigne and the singer Florence Welch.

Prince George of Cambridge will be preparing for his new school life

Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

But in a sea of name labels, shiny shoes and too-big blazers, there are other things for parents to consider, such as how to undo the damage caused by six weeks of late nights and screen time. Not to mention new-school nerves (both theirs and ours).

So whether you’re sending one off for the first time or sending an older one back, here’s how to do it…

1. Get breakfast right

“Breakfast is the starting block of the school day,” says nutritionist Amanda Ursell. “If children go to school slightly hungry or thirsty they won’t perform as well intellectually, emotionally or physically. Peanut butter on wholemeal toast with a glass of milk is a good choice, or a medium to low sugar cereal like Weetabix or porridge.

Slightly higher sugar cereals like Cheerios and Shreddies are fine occasionally but avoid cereal bars, which can be high in sugar.” Amanda also suggests avoiding seemingly healthy after-school snacks like Yo-Yo bars (“they’re marketed to appeal to health-conscious parents but contain a dense amount of fruit which isn’t great for teeth”) and stick to breadsticks, carrot sticks, hummus, apples, a little cheddar, a fruit scone or plain popcorn instead.

Prince William waving to onlookers after his first day at Wetherby School in Notting Hill Gate, London Credit: PA/PA

2. Have a better bedtime

A recent study from Soreen found 57% of parents admit their children go back to school tired and irritable after the summer break. “It’s never too late, but parents should begin early nights a week before school starts so they’re not going back with a sleep deficit,” says Noel Janis-Norton, a behavioural therapist and author of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting. Sleep specialist Sammy Margo, author of The Good Sleep Guide, says exercise before and after school also helps. “Walk or cycle to school if you can, and head to the park after school before the evenings get darker. Exercise is a useful cue for a child’s circadian rhythm and helps make them sleepy.”

Lastly, good bedtime habits begin in their bedroom, says professional de-clutterer Vicky Silverthorn, author of Start With Your Sock Drawer. “Studies show our sleeping environment impacts on our ability to get to sleep, stay asleep and the quality of our sleep. So create a tidy, calm environment for your child’s room, tone colours down, keep most of their toys in a separate playroom or tidy them away out of sight, leaving only sleep-inducing things like books or puzzles on display.”

Scheduled screen time can be useful Credit: Jane Williams/Alamy

3. Have a screen-time schedule

On a similar note, Silverthorn advises a screen-ban in your child’s bedroom once they go back to school, especially when they’re younger. “There should be no TV in their room for as long as possible and no screens at all for an hour before bed. Scientific studies show how our sleep is disrupted by staring at a screen before bed, and children fare worse than adults.”

Noel Janis-Norton, who has also written a book on screen time, says a screen schedule is key, and advises at least one screen-free day a week and screen-free times set in stone before school goes back (ie, before school and bed). “Plan your schedule and present it to each child alone, tailoring it to the age and temperament of that child.” Noel advises being firm, ignoring peer pressure and leading by example.

Encourage a growth mindset Credit: Samuel Wordley/Alamy

4. Re-define success

“Far too many children today are given the message at home that they’re very bright,” says Janis-Norton. “For a start, this can lead to them feeling something is wrong at school if they’re not getting things right away. So instead encourage a ‘growth mindset’ so they know they can improve with time and focus, which helps improve their confidence. Secondly, remember that being bright on its own isn’t enough. Parents today get so caught up in the academic side of things and expect so much from their children. Especially, it has to be said, in private London schools. But success in life is also down to good social skills, self-control and being polite, so don’t overlook those skills too.”

Giving your children some freedom will help them develop Credit: Nick David/Getty

5. Leave them be

Parents also need to not make children so much of a focus at home, says Janis-Norton. ‘I’ve worked in households where the parents pick up constantly after their child and stop a conversation mid-flow the minute their child interrupts them. The child gets the message they’re the most important person in the room, which isn’t a message you want them taking into the classroom.

Similarly, don’t feel like you need to give your child your undivided attention when you’re with them. Of course they need that for a small part of every day. But leave them alone to have independent free play where they’re not entertained by a screen, a parent or a play-date. And let them clear up after themselves and do as much for themselves – ie getting dressed and out the door – as they can. This is the basis for them working well independently at school and developing resilience, problem-solving skills and confidence - things you do want them taking into the classroom.”