A friend once asked me how I managed to leave my child in school when he started. As you know, the first few days, weeks or months can be stressful for you and your child. She’ll want you to stay with her and you’re likely to oblige. Why? Because it’s difficult to leave when the water works start.
So how did I do it? Here are some parenting tips that worked for me:
Before School Starts:
1. Give her a pep-talk. Tell her all about school as well as the fun activities that are waiting for her. Emphasize that there will be other kids too, so she can make new friends.
2.Get her acclimated. Familiarity speeds up the adjustment process so visit her classroom several times. Get her used to the layout of the room by letting her play and explore.
3. Say hello to teacher. Piggy-backing on the previous tip, let her interact with the teacher. This builds rapport and will allow her to see a familiar face when schools starts.
After School Starts:
1. Allow clinging. New faces can be stressful for your child and she will naturally run to you for comfort. If she doesn’t let go of your leg, stay with her in class. If she asks to sit on your lap during class time, let her.
2. Inch away. After a few days of allowing her to sit on your lap, encourage her to sit on her own chair. Remain in the classroom but stay as far away as possible so she can participate well in class, with you out of the way.
3.Go beyond the door. Now it’s time to leave, but only the classroom. If she refuses to let you out, tell her you will wait outside the room and if she wants to see you, she can. Just make sure that when she cracks the door open to peep, you’re where you said you’ll be.
Note 1: To transition from #2 to #3, I used to tell my kid I had to go to the potty (wink). I would actually just stay outside of the room for a few minutes, each time extending the duration, and then return inside the classroom. This helped him understand that it was okay for me to be gone, even for short periods only.
4. Say bye, temporarily. It’s now time to set boundaries and explain that you will leave her in school and come back after class. She might cry in protest but remember that when you say “bye”, be sure to turn and leave immediately, even if she sounds like she’s being tortured. This signals that you mean business.
Trust that the teacher will be able to calm her down. If not, she’ll eventually do this on her own.
Note 2: Ask the teacher for advice. She’s seen this many times before and will be able to give other tips on how you and your child can adjust to school.
Teacher’s Corner: Katherine Brazil of Casa De Bambini Learning Center says…
To help your child feel more comfortable when you say “goodbye” to her, you may:
1. Set up distractions. Get your child involved in an activity such as playing with her favorite toy or reading her favorite storybook. This will help take some of her attention away from your leaving.
2. Create your own ritual. Giving your child a hug, a kiss or high-five are some loving gestures you can do to help her understand that though you’ll be leaving for a while, you’ll come back for her after class.
Remember that any major change can be overcome through small steps. This makes it easier for children to adjust. Also, savor these clingy moments because after a few months, she won’t even notice when you go.
Do you have other parenting tips for leaving your first time schooler ? Leave a comment and let me know.
Photo: Creative Common from emrank