It’s September, which can only mean one thing: schools are back (after six months), and if you’re a first-time parent, you’re about to experience the murky world of playground politics. Take a deep breath. Very deep. It could get messy.
It’s not all bad, of course – I’ve done it once with my daughter, who’s now in Year 4, and made friends I’ll have for life. I’m also going through it again with my son, who’s just started Reception, and have already forged bonds I hope will grow as we spend the next seven years saying “hi” and “bye” to each other at the school gate.
But it can certainly be fraught, and I’ve been on the receiving end of “mum wars”, playground politics, and unnecessary gossip. I’ve also been drawn into arguments via the school Whatsapp group that I wish I’d never had.
“Tensions between parents and carers at the school gate have always been there and it can, at times, feel like being back at school yourself,” author and parenting expert, Liat Hughes Joshi, tells HuffPost UK. “At the moment we’re all feeling a bit fragile, and there’s a potential edge to those school gate relationships.”
Joshi says one of the reasons why relationships between parents can be so tricky is because people are emotional and invested in their children – but some people get over-emotional and over-invested. This can lead to all sorts of issues – from gossiping about another child’s behaviour, to one child not being invited to a birthday party.
So how can you steer clear of the gauntlet of playground politics for the first time? Be friendly, but cautious, says Joshi. Steer clear of emotional or “tricky” topics such as politics and religion, and people’s views on social distancing. And if you feel yourself getting worked up, “take a...