Fear on the first day of school?
I still remember the first day of school of my oldest son.
School supplies were ready, the uniforms in the drawer, the forms signed, the lunch box planned out and so on.
Never, in my entire life, had I imagined the emotions we both were going to go through. Fear, anxiety, emptiness, sadness and anger, to mention a few (yes! He was angry at me every day at pick-up).
I wanted him to go to school, but leaving him crying was painful, and I ended up not enjoying my time at home with my new born.
Reality is transitions are hard for everyone. Think about moving, divorce or a new job, and for kids, separating from their main care-giver to go to school for the first time is a transition like no other. It is their first major transition in life.
When they are little they process the world around them through us, and here we are, dropping them off at a place that is completely foreign to them. Yes, you did your research and trust this place and the teachers, but chances are your little one has no idea why she needs to be away from you.
After going through a month of crying at drop-off, consulting with a parenting expert and reading everything there is about separation anxiety in preschoolers, I came up with 4 tips to share with other families going through this first major separation from their little one:
- Create a transitional book using pictures or drawing, if you are good at it. The 5 main aspects of a transitional book are:
- Description of her life previous to school, the things she enjoyed the most
- Description of a full day of school that starts at home and finishes at home
- Description of the emotions he or she will go through
- Description of her new life going to school and how it is going to be fun
- Read the book to your little one everyday before leaving the house to go to school
- Transitional objects are proven to be effective to reduce separation anxiety in little kids. Let your child bring to school something small as a companion.
- Don’t be afraid to label ugly emotions with your child. Negative emotions don’t disappear if you ignore them, they actually grow. Transitions are great opportunities to talk to your kids about difficult feelings such as fear, anxiety and sadness.
- It is healthy to cry. It is crucial, especially for boys, to know that crying is acceptable, that is healthy to release stress and that you are here to hug them for as long as they need it.
According to parenting experts, the transition to school can take up to 45 days, so son’t worry, it won’t last forever.
(If you don’t have time to make your own transitional book, don’t worry, Lion heart goes to school is already made for you, and it comes with a transitional object)
Happy roller-coaster-of-emotions Back-to-school!