If you and your child are making the big leap into their new learning environments at school.
I hear you.
I see you.
You’ve got this.
And I’ll see you on the flip side as my son moves into Year 10 this year.
One thing I know for sure with our family is, whatever happens, we all grow a lot and are far better people at the end of the year than what we were at the beginning of every year.
8 things I’ve learned along the way and I hope it can help in some way. (there are thousands of things I’ve learned and some the hardest of ways – I’ve chosen what I think will support the most right now).
1: If you feel stressed or a little disconnected a great thing to do is make contact.
Connect with your child’s teacher, via email. Almost every teacher my son has had, has been grateful for the connection. Even if it is a “Hi, my name is… I am … mother/father and we are looking forward to having you as his teacher this year. I want you to know; we are here to support you, if there is anything we can do to make your life easier or to reinforce what you are encouraging in our child, please let us know. Wishing you a great start to the year in Term 1, and we are looking forward to meeting you in person at some stage.
2: Back off. Trust your child to trust themselves.
The more nervous you get, the more nervous they do. If the child is anxious or worried, acknowledge and normalise feelings. “I see your anxious and worried about the new teacher/school/friends, it’s more than okay to feel a little worried, it’s all new and with newness comes all those uncomfortable feelings, is there anything I can do to help? Is there anything you need from me to help you with those feelings?” Would you like to drive past the school and have a look at where you are going, would that help?” We can get so stressed about wanting our child to FEEL happy. Work hard at allowing your child to feel what they feel without judgement and to work through it with them. This part is so hard, as every cell of you wants to save them from their little worries, but it is just the beginning of them learning to manage uncomfortable feelings with new school environments. Some children cope better than others and some surprise you with their discomfort. Every year can be different and every child is different.
3: Speak respectfully about your child’s teacher and show enthusiasm.
Your child trusts you. Children are not silly. Why on earth would you drop them off every day to someone you don’t trust or respect. They need to hear you trust and respect their teacher. It helps them to form strong relationships with their teacher and they know that it is a triangle of care. You are all in it together. Every great year, has had the triangle of care; our child, the teacher and us (My hubby and I) all in it together, supporting each other to bring the best out in our boy!
4: Encourage and guide with a healthy balance of letting them work it out for themselves.
YOUR CHILD “Mum, I’ve lost my lunch box. YOU “Okay, what can you do about that?” as opposed to “That lunch box cost $15.00 and you lost it in the first week I’m not buying you a lunch box every time you lose one.” Try real hard to encourage problem-solving and that they can with your support cope with the small challenges. This gives them resilience to manage the little things and sets them up for later when the challenges can become a little larger.
5: Lunch Box Hell or Heaven.
Children as young as prep can start being encouraged to help make their lunch. With practice your child can eventually be making their lunch without your help, and that is one less thing you have to do and one thing your child has autonomy over. Growing strong, independent and caring children is a practice and you can start off small with lunches, or getting their clothes ready the night before. Anything that gives your child confidence to do the things they can do for themselves. Lunchbox hell or heaven? You will feel like you are having a relationship with the lunch box (yep I am serious about this lol), it will be; smelly, full, empty, dirty, lost, found, damaged, not theirs (a totally different lunch box), broken and you name it, that lunch will take you on a journey you never thought possible. Laugh at it, when you can, trust me on this one, you won’t feel like laughing about it some days.
6: Shoelace is not a dirty word LOLOL!
I’m laughing now, but the word shoelace nearly sent me crazy. Take the pressure off yourself by not expecting your child to miraculously tie a shoelace. They need to be shown, then they need practice and practice and practice, and for some, they need more practice. When you see your child coming towards you after being away from you all day, and you look down at their shoelaces dragging in the mud, make sure you stay calm and connect first. Then, pick your time for the shoelace conversation. I could write a book titled “How Shoelaces almost destroyed my parental confidence and other strengths I thought I had but didn’t” AND just think of those poor teachers all day long, bending down to do them up and the constant encouragement they give out. I remember capturing a beautiful moment of a teacher bending down to do up my boy’s laces when he was in prep. Then last year I had the same moment when his music teacher was helping him to put on his tie for a musical performance, it was such a lovely thing to witness the genuine love and care given towards my child. In a nutshell; don’t sweat the small stuff.
7: After school meltdowns are a thing a really big thing for some kids.
I found having a snack, a favourite fluffy to surprise him or if you have a pet, they could come along for the ride to be a wonderful connector. Your child is in a new environment, following new rules, with new people in new ways of learning and growing and then they get to the car and guess what? You are their soft place to fall, and it can be frightening seeing your child froth at the mouth, scream, cry, not talk, close off and space out. When all you want to ask is “How was your day and who did you play with?” Which leads to #7. You can have some snacks or sensory items, or a cool drink ready for your child to have that feeling of comfort and to feed their little brain and body. Awareness is everything. Acknowledge their feelings, it’s real for them and then breathe your way through it too, nothing can prepare you for after school meltdowns.
8: Get comfortable with the silence.
The last thing your child may feel like doing is answering you. I look back now, and I used to interrogate my boy with a barrage of questions as I clung to any glimmer of hope that he was doing okay. Having a quiet more introverted child, I felt fear on every level. How would he fit in? Who would he play with? Who would play with him? Is he happy? They are thoughts a conscious parent would think but try really really hard not to project your fears on to your child and if you are concerned, you can discuss it with your child’s teacher and ask for support or confirmation with how they are coping. Get comfortable not knowing everything about your child’s day. If your child is not talking, think of it as your time for a break too, enjoy a peaceful ride home if it is possible as #6 can take some patience, compassion and acceptance (and ear plugs).
I hope this can help in some small way to support you through with more confidence and clarity for the transition. It’s a transition, it takes some time to ease into the new environment, new people and new experience.
Go gently with your child.
Go gently with yourself.
Go gently with others.
Here is to a YEAR OF CALM, CONNECTION AND THRIVING TOGETHER!