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It doesn’t matter how much you feel like you have prepared your little one or yourself for the first day of school, it still feels like a piece of your baby is growing up.
Starting school is an adjustment. Whether your child has been in childcare every day for the last 3 years or has been home with you, this new chapter is huge. It’s a new environment, new teachers and friends. It’s the start of many first days but this one is the hardest for everyone.
Whether it’s your first or fourth child starting school, it is still an emotional rollercoaster. Your baby is getting on the bus and making new friends. They will spend their day colouring, playing, learning and you’ll have very little say in their day to day. Your baby is growing up and it can trigger a lot of mixed feelings.
If you are used to having your children home with you like we were, starting school also creates some anxiety over the fact that you are no longer in ‘control’ of their everyday. Not knowing who they are playing with, the conversations they are having and the little things like bathroom breaks and how they are feeling can be a huge adjustment.
If they have been in daycare, you are probably used to getting daily reports, having smaller class sizes and knowing their little friends. School can feel bigger and scarier when you do not have the same rapport as you did with your previous caregivers. Getting involved in the school, volunteering when possible and being part of the parent committee can help you get to know the school and staff so much better.
Certainly some children have the type of personality where big changes have little effect on them. They walk right into school on their first day and never look back. It’s amazing when your child is so confident that they can walk in and be totally comfortable but it can also be a little sad for parents as it can feel like they aren’t missing us at all.
For some children though, starting school can feel traumatic. It’s scary, it’s big, there are tons of children running everywhere and everyone seems to know exactly what they are supposed to do. It can feel overwhelming and very stressful. Even if your child has been in care leading up to the start of school, starting school can still cause some upset and worry.
Starting school can be filled with more emotions (for everyone) than we realize at times. It’s exciting and stressful and scary. It’s the thing nightmares are made of. It can also be so much fun! The lifelong friends they will make, the teachers they will love and the fun they will have will more than make up for the anxiety of the first few weeks.
Some children will regress in skills at which they are already proficient. Some may withdraw and seem to become a shell of their former selves. Others may become aggressive or become more emotional with more upset than usual.
Temper tantrums, bathroom accidents, hitting, biting, seeming angry or quick to cry are all behaviours that are driven by emotions. Starting school can be so overwhelming for some children that you may see behaviours you thought you were done with.
Allowing your child the time to talk, whether in bed during the bedtime routine or right after school when they get off the bus will be key. We always want to take their lead and not force the conversation. This will only cause them to shut down. Some children may not want to talk right after school while others will. Some will need extra time in their bedtime routine to snuggle and chat. Others will talk your ear off from the moment they get off the bus until they fall asleep. Expressing their feelings and having the opportunity to talk without interruption, with your full attention and without limitations will help your child more than you can imagine.
We always want our children to adjust quickly to changes and excel at everything they do but it just isn’t realistic. Children need time to adjust. Helping them through by providing the emotional support needed is always the best way. Along with allowing your child to talk about their day to day there are simple things you can do to help them through their day when you are not around and again at the end of the day.
One of our favourites is to cut out little heart shapes and writing I love you on them and putting them in their pocket in the morning so that when they are missing you they can rub the heart between their fingers.
Some other cute ideas include:
They are going to be exhausted their first few weeks. Even if your child was in care previously, this is a whole new ballgame. It will really help the transition go a lot smoother if your child is well rested. Making sure they are still getting 11-12 hours of sleep every night can really ensure they are ready to learn and can help them cope with their emotions. A child who is well rested and well fed will be ready to take on the challenges of their new adventures in Kindergarten.