Well lovely parents, how did that start to school or reception go? Or probably more accurately, how is it still going? Lots of schools, like my daughter’s have only just started going in for full days this week. I quite like a staggered entry to ease our little ones in gently, but it can also be quite confusing for them!
So, we did our preparation over the holiday’s ready for the big day in September. There was lots of excited chat about starting school, looking forward to making new friends, and learning new things. When the day came, the uniform went on, there were big smiles at the breakfast table, a skip as we walked into school. And then…..tears. My daughters AND mine. She let hers out very openly and I held mine back. She did not want to stay, she did not want me to go, she wanted to GO HOME!
I comforted, I distracted, I encouraged but there she was still hanging to my leg. We finally agreed one last hug, one last kiss and out of the classroom I went leaving her and her tears with the lovely Mrs Wisheart (Isn’t that THE best name for a kind and caring classroom assistant?!)
I was late out and so all the gates were shut. I had to walk through school, now with the tears rolling freely feeling like a complete plonker! However, all the lovely ladies I passed on the way made encouraging comments like ‘We’ve all been there’, ‘She’ll be home before you know it’, ‘In 5 minutes she’ll be engrossed in playing and smiling away’.
And whilst I know that all of these things are true (in most cases) and recall them from teaching days on the other side of the classroom door, I still cried and worried for most of the day and yes, I even rang the school the check how she was!
But do you know what? All of this is OK. During this period of adjustment, you will feel all kinds of different emotions, be thinking lots of thoughts; happy, sad and lots in between. And that is exactly what is meant to happen when we are going through a significant change. So, accept the thoughts and feelings you have, allow yourself time to process them but don’t hold on to them. Gently remind yourself that these feelings won’t last, this adjustment period won’t last. Soon you will have a new ‘norm’ Your child will settle and you’ll find it easier to let them go and you’ll be baking cakes for that cake sale and joining the parent association before you know it!
In the meantime, to help you and your child through these early days and towards creating your new norm here are some things that you might find helpful.
Calm Those Nerves
If you know me and Calm Cats well, it will come as no surprise that I am recommending a breathing activity! And that’s because they are simple and easy, yet, really effective. Each morning at breakfast or on our way in the car my daughter uses her mermaid fabric snap band to do some deep, calm breathing to balance the nerves that she feels in her tummy. You can join in with this too by breathing in through the nose for a count of 4 and out through the mouth for a count of 6.
Ease the Separation
In these first few days and weeks, for many children and parent’s, it is the separation that is the hardest thing. After our first few days I decided to implement a couple of things to help ease the separation going forward and it did really help.
Firstly, we did a little NLP technique to anchor the feelings of love, comfort and security that my daughter gets from a hug. To access these feelings, she presses on a heart or star that we draw on her wrist each morning. She insisted that we also do the same for me, so that I could have a ‘huggie’ if I needed one too. Pop me a message if you would like to know more about this technique.
The second thing we have done is to have a visual reminder of each other that we keep with us during the time we are apart. After her first half day at school we spent some quality time making each other something with Aquabeads. I have a lovely heart keyring and she has a unicorn tucked in the pocket of her bag.
Finally, don’t labour your good byes. We have agreed that our good bye is 1 kiss, 1 hug, say I love you and then I leave. It feels really mean when they are having a wobble to walk away, but to keep hanging around or looking through the classroom window makes it much more difficult for both of you. In time this consistent good bye will work as a cue that its time to move away from you and on to school. So have faith in your good bye!
Connect With Other Parents
Don’t forget that you are not the only one who will be feeling like you do. And there will be other children who feel like yours does too. I know it can feel uncomfortable and it’s a bit like going back to school for us as well, but make sure you connect with other parents on the drop off or pick up. Make small talk, pay a compliment, smile or be the person holding up the cue in Sainsbury's at the customer services checkout. That was a good ice breaker for me! If you are unable to do the school drop off and pick up, get connected on social media, or WhatsApp, there’s usually a group for parents and introduce yourself and child that way. Once you get chatting you’ll realise you’re all in the same boat and will be able to share words of comfort and support to each other.
Whether it’s wall charts, pin boards, google calendar, a paper diary, the school website, the school text messaging service or whatever. Arm yourself with ways to be organised and get on top of all the school events that will be coming your way over the next 10 or so months. If you can get the hold of the schools events diary now, put the years events in your diary so that if you see a clash between work and the nativity play for example, you can either request the time off (if possible) or arrange for another family member to go. This might help to alleviate some of the parent guilt that we feel when we need to be in 2 (or more) places at once.
New Term, New you?
If you are a stay at home parent or work part time, you may all of a sudden have that empty feeling at home, particularly if your youngest has just started school. When we experience a big change like this, I’ve learned to look for the opportunity that the change is presenting me with. This helps to move life on for us and prevents us becoming stuck in what was. Take some time to write a list of 5 or 10 things that you haven’t had the time or energy for or that you have really missed over the last 4-5 years (or more) It might be exercising, studying, working, seeing family and friends. I’ve enjoyed chatting with my besties on the phone for more than 10 minutes while multi-tasking and having questions fired at me every 5 seconds! I’ve found a renewed love of swimming. I’ve also got physical time and head space to work on moving my business forward to where I want it to be.
Taking time for ourselves and finding purpose outside of being a parent can be a real challenge. If the opportunity has arisen for you to do that now, grab it with both hands. While your little one is finding their path in their new chapter of life, why not do the same in yours?