Even the most confident children feel a little apprehensive at the thought of returning to school after a long holiday with mom and dad. Tears and trepidation are to be expected, but with a little preparation you can keep these to a minimum.
Often, small children don’t have the vocabulary or skills to label the emotions they’re experiencing –especially if they’re big ones. You can help by starting the conversation by asking your little one how she’s feeling about the first day long before it approaches, and discuss some of the emotions – from excitement to outright nervousness – that might be circling her little head. Remind her that it’s OK to feel fearful, and that her friends are probably having the same thoughts. Talk about how exciting school is and draw her attention to all the wonderful activities she’ll get up to during the day, but don’t shy away from the hard stuff. Ask her what she’s most worried about, and discuss potential strategies for coping with these concerns.
Schedule a play date
Play dates can be powerful tools for developing social skills. Timed just before the beginning of school, they can help to cement relationships that may have been put on hold during the holidays, when family usually comes first. This can do wonders for building your child’s confidence.
The more work you do now, the less you’ll have to do on the day. Locate hats, bags and school socks that have been tossed aside during the holiday and start planning lunchbox menus. Without the last-minute flurry, you and your family will feel much calmer. Preparation also means getting your child’s (and often your own) mindset right – chatting about her teacher and what she can expect will provide an element of familiarity that helps to chase away anxieties.
Send a little love to school
If your child has already been working with letters, a note with a heart on it will let her know you’re thinking of her. If she’s still little, a favourite snack is comforting and will bring a bit of joy to her day. Sneak it into her lunchbox when she’s not looking.
Show your support
Preparing for school actually starts long before your child walks through that classroom door. By showing that you’re always available for a chat and a play, you make it clear that you’re on her side – so that when the big day comes and she’s feeling a little overwhelmed, she’ll take comfort in knowing that you always have her back.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.