Let’s face it. It’s not just the little ones who have trouble leaving the roost the first day of school. Parents have a hard time too. Kids often have tremendous separation anxiety that first day of school, and sometimes, Moms, and Dads do too, especially if it’s your childs’ first-day-ever at school or daycare. But, as parents do, we end up worrying more about our kids than ourselves, and there are things you can and should start doing today to ensure the first morning goes off without a hitch. And yes, Moms and Dads, we’ll talk about what you can do for yourselves too.
First, here are 5 sure-fire tips to start getting them ready for that first day, with confidence.
1. File the Fear. The first thing to start doing now is to park your nerves behind closed doors and don’t let them see the fear in your eyes or the sweat on your brow. They may be little, but they have big ears and even bigger eyes, and they pick up on everything. They’ll adapt your nervousness or sense of fear if you show anything other than positivity, self-assuredness, and confidence about their success and happiness.
2. Front-Load. This is a big one, and perhaps the most important thing you can do to let your little ones know they’ll be fine. Start talking about school now. Talk about all the wonderful new things they’ll learn and all the nice new friends they’ll meet, and Front-Load the 5 W’s. What. When. Where. Why. Who. You want to arm your kids with knowledge and expectation, because they have to know what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, where, with who, and how. This way, they’ll know what’s going to happen, that there’s a time-frame, and that Mommy, Daddy, or Caregiver will be there when it’s over to pick them up.
3. Role Play. This may sound silly, but if you’ve got an extra sensitive child, you’ll want to let them feel what kind of atmosphere they’ll be walking into before it happens, so they have a visual they can go back to. Experience is everything, and you want your kids to know and feel what they may be about to experience. Make it fun. If they don’t bite, don’t worry. Try again another time.
4. Don’t Be Pushy. If your child isn’t so excited about going to school, don’t panic. It’s a big step, and you can take baby steps in preparing them for the big day in the week or weeks to come, by having gentle, sporadic conversations with your child. Begin talking about all the different kinds of things your child may do at school, over the course of the day. Don’t be over-bearing, just a few references here and there. Over time, these small, frequent reminders and references will make the big day a little easier for them because they’ll know what they’ll be doing and how that may make them feel. Make sure this next week you’re extra sensitive to your childs’ moods too, and maybe hang back a bit. They’re anxiety may cause them to act out. Understand your source, and act accordingly.
5. The Big Day, The Big Meltdown. Yes, it may happen. By surprise. The week may have gone swimmingly, and you may have been surprised by your childs’ eagerness, excitement or even displacement of the fact that they’re going to school, and then boom…the big day arrives. The morning is chaos, and the monster meltdown rears it’s ugly head. Expect it. Your child is freaking out, acting out, and unwilling to go out. Do your best to stay positive. Do not get angry. This isn’t about you, they’re scared. It’s new, big, and frightening. Put on a smile, a kind tone, a calm demeanour, and fake-it-til-you-make-it out the door and to the school. Let the school know that you have a reserved child, and they will expertly handle the rest. Meanwhile, you must expertly handle the pass-off like a pro. This is your shining moment. Don’t blow it. Pretend everyone is watching, and put your best game-face on. Muster your confidence, take a deep breath in, release, and let go. Your child may end up kicking and screaming as you leave, but you’re going to leave with grace and honour, with your swiftest step ever, and leave the rest to the pros. Give a quick kiss, (no hugs because they’ll hang on for dear life and squeeze whatever strength you have left right out of you), say bye bye, your I love you’s, let them know Mommy, or whoever, will be back at the designated time, and bounce.
Now you can breakdown, meltdown, and calm down. You will be fine. They will be fine. Be in whatever element you need to be in once you leave, and they can’t hear or see you. It’s healthy to spend some time here, so go ahead. Make sure you have the next few hours planned out to keep yourself busy. Find a buddy to help you keep focused or occupied. If you find that some moments are easier than others, roll with it. It’s all new and scary. And, you will be fine.
Happy first day of school Mom and Dad!