Starting school can be an exciting and nerve-racking time for both parents and children. Some of your littles ones are counting down the days and even the hours, while others are filled with fears and worry about what to expect when they take this next big step in their schooling journey.
With tips from Jacque Bruggemann, Wellness Coach and founder of Inspired Mummies, we will walk you through how to prepare both yourself and your little ones for school.
“I get it. My son is a stage 5 clinger and looks for me when I leave the room for 5 seconds. The thought of his first day of school (which is Prep in 2021) is enough to have me rocking in the corner,” Jacque says.
Preparing Your Little One
Drop the use of labels and emotionally charged words to promote a sense of calm and reassurance
Children tend to embody the words we use about them, so it is vital that we aim to use as many empowering words as possible. While they may be ‘shy’ or ‘scared’ , swap these words to help them find their excitement a little faster. Quiet is a good word to swap for shy. Encourage conversations about it being ok to be a little nervous and that most other children will be feeling the same. Support children to connect with their emotions and acknowledge how they feel. By empowering them to acknowledge their thoughts and feelings gives them an opportunity to accept negative feelings and replace them with positive ones and a wider vocabulary to express themselves.
Make it Fun
Talk about all of the FUN they will have while at school. Get visibly excited when you share about playing on the playground with all their new friends or in the home corner. Share some happy memories you had when you were at school. If they have older siblings, cousins or friends, encourage them to share fun and exciting experiences that they had.
Listen and acknowledge
It is important to listen and acknowledge the aspects that are making them nervous or unsure. Validate their feelings and use the ‘feel felt found’ method. Saying things like ‘I can see how you are feeling a little nervous about meeting new friends. I felt the same way when I started school. What I found was that everyone was really nice and my teachers helped me settle in. Spend time brainstorming ways they can find their confidence and even how they can support other new friends feeling the same way.
Begin a bedtime routine now to help your child practice mindfulness and be well rested when school starts. Include story time, meaningful connected conversations and guided meditations. Youtube has a large range of Children’s meditation as does iTunes. As humans we thrive on connection and what better way to do this with your child then through daily meaningful connected conversations. You can both share your Rose and Thorn for the day. By sharing one positive and one negative aspect of their day, it supports children to verbally remove negative thoughts that may prevent a restful sleep and provide an opportunity to share and connect with you. Check out Jacque’s children bedtime playlist.
Introduce conversation starter cards or Affirmation cards. These are great to give your child a word or simple statement to focus on for their day. Encourage them to remember their word and say it to themselves through the day, especially if they have moments when they are feeling a little upset or unsure. These words or statements can also be placed in your child’s lunchbox on a post-it-note. Even a hand drawn picture can brighten a child’s day when they sit down to have their lunch in a busy school playground.
If you know a child or two who is starting in the same class or even the same grade, arrange a quiet play date to give them a chance to make a friend for their first day. This can settle any nerves and provides them with an opportunity to speak with another child about their fears or worries about heading off to big school.
Find some space to allow your child to express and work through their feelings using their favourite play based activity. This may be drawing how they will feel at the end of their first day when you greet them with a hello hug. Or for those Lego loving kids have them build the school playground or something for you to have to remind you of them while they are at school having fun.
Make time for you
In the lead up and during those first weeks (well forever actually) MAKE time for you. Yes, you have heard it everywhere and always, but I am saying it again. You must make yourself and your own self-care the top of your list. It doesn’t have to cost anything or be overly time consuming. This could be 5 minutes to enjoy the silence at night. Or rising 15 minutes before the children to do a quick workout. It is important to acknowledge and accept your own feelings about this big milestone in your little one’s life. Check out Jacque’s Self Care eBook for more ideas.
Talk to your friends
Chances are your friends with kids have been through this before or are going through it too. This chat doesn’t just have to be for ideas but can be simply about having a good old vent and offload. Connection is just as important for adults as it is for children.
When school starts
On their first day be as prepared as possible the night before, including an early bedtime. Greet them with excitement, it is so important that your emotions and actions show them you are excited for their experience. Have a great breakfast together, pick their favourite healthy (ish) meal. While scrambled eggs or oats and fruit is probably what we should put on the table, if pancakes and strawberries are their favourite, it is ok to run with that on day one. Even if you have a shocking sleep do your best to be upbeat and excited for them. Remember the energy that we bring to this special moment is so important!
Make time to play
Give yourself as much time as possible on that first day (even the first week) to be present in the classroom as they settle. That said the teachers will be amazing and have done this many times before so trust they will have it if you need to unlatch your child from your waist (tears and all). Acknowledge your child’s feelings and reassure them that they will have a great day and that you will be back in no time to pick them up.
Celebrate them making it through their first day and even week. Plan something as a treat to do together after their first day. A trip to the park or cake and milkshakes or snuggles and a movie at home.
Remember, you’ve got this, it may be tears or tantrums on that first day, but either way having your support is all they need!