Last week we received the awesome news that school A on our list (where we were previously advised we were unsuccessful, read here) had space for Danny. God is so good. Obviously we accepted and now Danny will be going to a school he knows, it’s in our area and he will be in a class with 2 of his best friends. After all the excitement had died a little we started looking at all the finances involved with sending him off to big school, shock to the system but we recovered.
A few days later Danny said something to me while driving home, “Mom I’m scared of going to big school” and my heart shattered into a million trillion pieces. My little confident boy was scared and this got me thinking, starting Grade 1 is a HUGE thing but I think that most of his anxiety stems from me. Yip, I know how to own up. Lately there’s been many conversations in our home regarding school and the anxiety of not being placed and running around trying to find a school and all this has happened in front of the kids (not that we noticed them really paying any attention to the conversation). However after hearing his declaration the I connected the dots.
I am scared of starting school, yes me, the Mother. I am anxious, I am nervous, I am excited and all of these emotions that I’ve had 29 years to understand (not master) is being transferred to my 6 year old. Now I needed to be mindful of my words associated with big school, my body language and the positives. As a Mom or Dad you never stop learning and as Parents you never stop teaching. Transitioning from crèche/ day-care / Grade R to Primary school will involve worries and anxiety BUT it’s how we respond and react that could make it a smooth process or set the stage for bigger problems down the line.
This is a life changing experience for Danny, it’s the start of his journey to discovering who he is and where he wants to go in life so it’s our job as Parents to prepare him for what lies ahead.
Step into their tiny shoes for a moment and try and understand the anxiety
· It’s a new building and a new class
· It’s a new teacher (actually teachers)
· Its new friends and faces
· They are the littlelest ones there at the school (Grade 1 – 7)
· It’s a new routine (bells, line up, assembly, sitting quietly, longer periods, only eating during break time)
· Wearing uniform (and having to keep track of your uniform) – Danny has the luxury of the teacher gathering his belongings because he just couldn’t care, has more important things to do, doesn’t understand the importance of caring for his clothes yet
· If you do something wrong you don’t sit in time out, you go to the Principals office or get detention.
These are just a few examples of what he will encounter next year, and yes we all needed to have gone through this but since becoming a Parent I realize how stressful it can be.
Regardless of this we are still focusing on all the positives that come with starting big school. We acknowledge the anxieties that he has and talk through it but then attach a positive to it.
i.e. new faces, he is nervous he won’t know many kids and has to make new friends, the positive is he will meet new kids, and build new relationships with friends that he will have for life (like his Dad with Uncle Shaun, friends since junior school and still going strong).
In the background we can worry about the how’s, whens, what’s, finances and and and but definitely not in front of the kids anymore (side note, sending your kids to school is expensive – prepare well in advance, WELL – Lol )
If you are in the same boat as me and will be sending one of your chickens into the big wide world next year start with the following
· Talk about the school in advance, mention the name, tell them there teachers name, drive past the school. Prepare them.
· Check with your child if THEY have any questions about the school
· Try and stay neutral when they express their anxieties, don’t add fuel to any little flame. Acknowledge how they may be feeling and put a positive spin on it.
· Give your child a little note, or a photo to keep in their bag during the day. Something to remind them of you and how excited you are to hear about their day.
· On the first day of school stay positive, ensure that they get a good night’s sleep. Pack, plan, prepare the night before (don’t be late, it will just add to the anxiety), smile, be happy (DO NOT UGLY CRY, wait till you’ve seen them off cheerfully and then cry in your car).
· As silly as it sounds, joke around in the car, tell funny stories, let them giggle and belly laugh. Release those good hormones so that when you approach the school they’re already in a positive and happy mood.
· Start a goodbye routine, a fun hand shake, special words, a hug and eskimo kiss (whatever) so that when you have to leave them on the first day and if they become teary this will be the something familiar they know. Something fun, a good distraction.
· Keep your goodbye routine short, 5 – 10min (the longer you stay, the harder it will be when you leave)
· Decide on a spot that you will be waiting in when they finish their first day, a spot visible to them.
· Be a few minutes early to pick them up and as per the previous point, wait for them in that special spot.
· When you see them, have the BIGGEST smile on your face and be EXCITED about their first day. Ask questions, share in their joy, and celebrate the first day. This is the ONLY first day of “big school” you will have with them.