Starting school is both nerve-racking and exciting for parents and children. Your child might be filled with fears and worry, or they could be counting down the days in excitement! They are filled with curiosity of what to expect on the next step in their schooling journey.
Let’s walk through how to prepare yourselves and your little ones for school, with tips from Jacque Bruggemann, Wellness Coach and found of Inspired Mummies.
“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
Don’t use labels and emotional words to promote a sense of reassurance and calm
It is important to use empowering words, as children tend to embody the words we use about them. If you often refer to your child as ‘shy ’or ‘scared’, choose to swap these to help them find their excitement a bit faster. For example, quiet is a good word to use instead of shy. Encourage conversations about their nerves, reassuring your little one that is it okay to be a bit nervous and many other children will be feeling the same. Doing so supports children to connect with their emotions and recognise how they feel. This empowers them to acknowledge their thoughts and provides an opportunity to accept any negative feelings and replace these with positive ones. They will also build a broader vocabulary to express themselves.
Make it Fun
Discuss all the FUN they will have while at school. Display visible excitement while talking about playing on the playground with their new friends or in the home corner. It also helps to share joyful memories that you have in your time at school. If your little one has older siblings, cousins or friends, encourage them to discuss any exciting experiences that have had.
Listen and acknowledge
Remember to listen and acknowledge anything that is making your child nervous or unsure. Validate their emotions and use the ‘feel felt found’ method. For example, saying ‘I can see that you are feeling nervous about starting school. When I was little, I felt the same way. I found that the teachers helped me settle in and the other children were very nice.’ Take the time to brainstorm ways to build confidence and even ways to support other new friends feeling the same way.
Get into the habit of a bedtime routine now, so your child is well-rested when school starts. Include story time, meaningful conversations and guided meditations. Head to Youtube for a large range of children’s meditation videos, as well as iTunes. Humans thrive on connections with one another, so it is excellent to build a habit of daily meaningful, connected conversations with your child. Both of you can share your Rose and Thorn for the day – one positive and one negative aspect of the day. This support children to verbally remove any negative feelings that may prevent a peaceful sleep, and is a beautiful opportunity to share and connect with you. Check out Jacque’s children bedtime playlist.
Introduce your child to Affirmation cards or conversation starter cards. These are a great way to focus their day on a simple word or statement. Encourage your little one to remember their word and say it to themselves throughout the day, especially if they are feeling unsure or upset. Pop a hand drawn picture or post-it-note in their lunchbox to brighten their day when they site down for lunch in a busy school playground.
You might already know some children that are going to be in the same class or grade as your child. Arrange a playdate before school starts to allow them to have a friendly face on the first day of school. This gives them a chance to speak with another child about any fears or worries about school and settles their nerves about big school.
Does your child have a favourite play-based activity? Use this to allow your child to express and work through their feelings. For example, this could be a drawing at the end of their first day to show how they feel. Or if your child loves Lego, have them build the school playground or something for you to remind you of them while they are having fun at school.
Make time for you
Be sure to make time for yourself in the lead up and during the first weeks of school (and forever). You would have heard this everywhere, but it is so important to put your self-care at the top of your list. This doesn’t have to be time-consuming or cost you anything. It would be as simple as 5 minutes to sit peacefully and enjoy the silence at night. Or consider waking up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to fit in a quick workout. Remember to acknowledge and accept your feelings about this significant milestone in your child’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 or are going through it too. Talk to them about any ideas, or even just vent and offload if you need to. Remember that connection is just as important to adults as it is for children.
When school starts
Prepare the night before the first day of school, including an early bedtime. Greet them in the morning with enthusiasm and excitement –show them that you are excited about their school experience. Pick their favourite healthy (ish) breakfast meal and enjoy this together. While you should probably put scrambled eggs or oats and fruit on the table, it is okay for day one to have their favourite pancakes and strawberries instead. If you aren’t feeling the best or had a poor sleep, try your best to remain upbeat and excited. The energy that you bring to this day is important for your child!
Make time to play
Allow as much time as possible on their first day (even the first week) to be present in the classroom as they settle in. You can trust that the teachers will be amazing – they have done this many times before so trust that they will have it if you need to unlatch your child form your waist(tears and all). Remember to acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that it will be a wonderful day, and you will be back to pick them up before they know it!
Celebrate the occasion
Celebrate with your little one for making it through their first day and first week. They would love to do something with you as a small treat after their first day at school. Perhaps a trip to the park or cake and milkshakes or snuggles and a movie at home.
You’ve got this! It might be tears and tantrums on their first day, but remember that having your support is all they need.
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