Starting School: The Younger Sibling Left Behind

Starting School: The Younger Sibling Left Behind

My eldest daughter starts school in September and this time last year I was worrying about whether she’d be ready to be in full time education. In the last twelve months she has grown in confidence and is desperate to learn, and luckily it seems that now she is ready to take the next step.

So rather than worrying about her, my worries have instead turned to my youngest child and how she will cope with this new change. At two, she is fiercely independent and through sheer determination she more or less keeps up with her big sister despite their age gap. They spend every day together, playing games, ‘reading’ or tearing round the garden. The only times they are apart are when my eldest has a swimming or dance lesson, and even then my youngest can’t wait to be reunited with her sister. She watches the five minute performance at the end of each dance class proudly, and is delighted when her sister is returned to her.

I feel like my heart is about to be broken in two different directions.

Firstly, I am already in mourning for my firstborn who will be at school five days each week. Secondly, it pains me to imagine the sadness my youngest daughter may be about to experience when she realises that she is going to be separated from her sister for six hours each day.

My eldest went for settling sessions at her new school and my youngest watched sadly as her sister skipped off into her new classroom, ready for adventures. I tried to make this one-to-one time fun for her, but being with Mummy just wasn’t as good as being with her best buddy. At the end of the settling sessions, my youngest demanded a cuddle from her sister, delighted to have her back, but it was clear that my eldest had barely noticed her absence. So excited by her new school; new friends, new teacher, fun toys and exciting play equipment, she has not felt their separation in the same way.

My little one tells me that she is also going to start school this year. I’m sure that she, too, will want the uniform, the new shoes and the PE kit. I wonder if she will continue to stare longingly every morning as her sister vanishes into her new classroom. With just the two of us at home, her days will be quieter and she won’t have her usual playmate on hand for her every need. Although I will be able to arrange more things specifically for her, and she will spend less time dropping her sister off at various classes, I am not sure that this will make up for her loss.

In September, my youngest will still have two years until she starts school. Having spent most of her life trying to catch up with her big sister, I don’t think I will have any worries about her being ready to start school when her turn comes. For now, I just need to make sure I find ways to minimise her loneliness for six hours each day so that our time together can be something wonderful, rather than a disappointment for her.

You can read more from Hannah on her blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter,

Hannah England

Hannah England is a freelance writer living in Bristol. She lives with her wife and two daughters aged four and two, and is trying to finish writing her first novel. She can often be found obsessing about getting the laundry done.

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