The countdown is on! A little like the dropping of the New Year’s Eve ball, but instead of a new calendar year, we are counting down to the start of a new school year. It comes with the same excitement and anticipation and yes, sometimes even nervousness for what’s ahead. To help us through this big time of year we should all know, and accept, the power of preparation.
The first days of school, whether it’s a child’s first time ever, or a child’s first days back after the summer break, can come with all kinds of feelings and worries. It’s hard to get it perfect but the more prepared we are, the better the chances of a smooth and happy transition. We can’t solve our children’s worries, which may range from the anticipation of a new teacher or a new classroom and classmates, to being away from home all day, and even just the loss of those lazy, hazy days of summer where all they had to do was roll out of bed and have fun. Taking away all these worries and concerns is virtually impossible for parents to do but what we can do is connect. The way we connect with our children, in the weeks, days and hours leading up to the start of school, will make all the difference in how the first day will land.
Resistance to school, whether it is through tears, whining, slowness in getting ready, or even flat-out refusal to go, all tends to come from the same place…not being prepared for what can be a huge transition for many children. One renowned Child Psychologist nailed it when she wrote “there’s a back-to-school shopping list and a back-to-school feelings list”. Just like children need new shoes, uniforms, backpacks, and lunch boxes, they also need validation, confidence, regulation skills and sturdy leadership from the adults in their lives.
It all sounds great, but how do we actually attend to this “feelings list” and make sure our children are as ready as they possibly can be for the school days ahead? Every family will handle this differently but one of the most helpful things is developing a separation routine. Prepare your child for the good morning goodbyes by going over how it’s going to work and then (now here’s the hardest part) STICK TO IT. Go over and practice the routine with your child. Younger children will probably need to hear the routine more often than older children, but everyone should know what to expect. “When we get to school, we will … go to the doors of the school, or to the playground, we will give each other a hug and then say “see you later”. Remember we always come back. You will stay with your teacher while we go do our jobs and we will pick you up at the end of the day. Ready to practice? Let’s do it!” Maybe easier said than done, but when we communicate the plan with our children, and remain consistent, it really can go smoothly.
Another important item on the “feelings list” is an at home morning routine. The smoother the morning at home, the smoother the day at school. A morning household with children is undoubtedly hectic but if everyone knows in advance what their “job” is it can run as a much more pleasant experience. Getting a good night’s rest is so very important, that includes Moms and Dads too, and consistency for any and all routines is absolutely critical. Children are looking for their parents to have a calm and guiding hand and as much as they may resist, they really do crave routine.
So as the clock ticks down, 10-9-8-7-6 …. it’s time to get started! We look forward to everyone being well prepared for what promises to be a wonderful school year ahead.
Happy New Year!