Is the sunshine of summer slightly tainted by the realisation that your baby will be starting school this September? If you have a 4 year old, the thought of this new phase of your child’s life may indeed be clouding your summer holidays. We all want to do our best to support our children with this transition and ease any anxiety they may be feeling. A new environment, new faces, new boundaries and new rules. You may be asking yourself: Will he be scared? How will she cope? Will the pain of being from me override any enjoyment she could get from her new setting?
And the big question to ask is, how can I help?
We, the parents, are our children’s first teacher. And adaptability is an important skill to teach our children. Some children adapt slowly to transition because change can put them into a state of alert. They may be audible about the tension they feel from the transition and let you know with an outright “No! I’m not going!” Or, they may put on a stoic face, grin and bare it, but inside be in knots. However they express themselves, it is our job to observe and react to their feelings and needs with patience and sensitivity to ensure a smooth transition to the first few weeks of school.
Some tips to help your child prepare for school:
- Review the plan for how the first days will go with your child many times. Communicate with them so that it is as clear as possible. Invite your child to contribute to the plan. Maybe write it down or make a storyboard together. Your child can draw or photograph the pictures of her coat, toothbrush, shoes, route to school, the school, etc., herself and place them in the correct order. Having your child participate in the establishment of her routine may help her to take ownership of it, stick to it, and even look forward to it, more easily.
- Rephrase any grumbles or complaints in your mind. Interpret “I hate school!” with, “I’m scared and I don’t want to be surprised.” Examine the feelings behind the outbursts. Recognising and respond to your child’s emotions with reflective listening.
- Tell her that the other children probably feel the same way and she isn’t alone.
- Give her the words to express her feelings about the changes that are occurring. Perhaps make a list of key vocabulary words that might describe her emotions, and put them up on the fridge so you can remember to help her describe how she’s feeling, such as: lonely, sad, overwhelmed, distressed, disappointed, being included, threatened, etc.
- Another great list of words to have around your sight line is words that praise her resilience and show our appreciation. Teach her this vocabulary so that she can use them herself. For example: flexible, solution, responsible, thoughtful, tolerant, patient, polite, inspiring, gentle, co-operation, carefulness, etc.
- Empathise with your child. When one of my children stays home from school due to illness and the other grumbles that it is unfair, I hug him and say something like “It is hard for you to go to school when your sister is at home isn’t it? You are afraid she’ll get extra cuddles or more tv time aren’t you.”
- Be sure to allow plenty of time in the mornings during the first few weeks of school. What matters to them is they have time to finish whatever they may be doing. One trick that works really well in my house is that I’ve set the clock forward by ten minutes. We are never late to school anymore!
These simple forewarnings and steps can hopefully minimise any discomfort and anxieties, and your goal for their confidence and ability to cope will be realised. When your child knows what to expect, and when you realise how challenging it could be for her, a little preparation can help you both to respond more easily to the transition.
Erin McGuigan is a Birth and Post Natal Doula and the Co-Creator of Treasure Birth antenatal classes. She is passionate about helping families set their children up for a lifetime of physical and emotional wellness, starting from pregnancy, on through to birth and then in the early years. Erin’s experience as a doula and antenatal facilitator has given her the opportunity to work with many mothers, fathers, babies and children. To read more about Erin click here
We stock a lovely range of natural products for children which can help provide physical and emotional support as they leave summer behind for the classroom this autumn. Take a look in our children’s natural health shop
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