I admit that I can be a bit of an emotional ninny and never more so than when its something that involves my kids. But if your Childs 1st day of school doesn't make you well-up a little then you have a heart of ice!
My eldest, Erin starts ‘big school’ next week as school returns to our schedules after the long summer (and covid) absence and I have been dreading making a holy show of myself as I stand by the school gates and watch my baby march off to the next stage of her young life.
As my anxiety has increased I have asked everyone I know who has older kids about how they dealt with it both for their child and also for themselves.
Read some books about starting school. I was given a 2nd hand copy of ‘The Kissing Hand’ which is a lovely book about a nervous Raccoons first day at school. I held back the tears long enough to get through the short story but if you prefer you can listen to it with your child on audible and it comes with some lovely songs too. https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Kissing-Hand-Audiobook/B004F2DLRI? or you can listen to it on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPUW1t9Gu4s
Talk to your child about their feelings about school, friends, teachers, and new activities. Make it sound like a big adventure.
Practice Run. Learning how to get ready each morning for the trip to school takes time and practice. Pretend it's a school day, and go through the steps of getting up, dressed, fed, and out the door. I am blessed in that Erins school is walking distance so we were able to do a full dry run but its up to you if go as far as the actual school gates.
Ask your child what kind of school lunch they want. I brought Erin off to the shops on her own and we decided on what things to get for her lunch box together. I made her feel like she was very much a part of the decision making but I obliviously guided her towards the fruit and popcorn rather than sweets and treats. I felt that it gave her a great sense of independence which she will need and it also served as a nice bonding experience for us. Remember that anything that goes in the lunchbox on the 1st day will be asked for again and again!
Go school shopping. I did the same thing for all of her off -to-school clothes and pencils, backpack etc. It doesn't have to be something expensive. Even a "new-to-you" item will have meaning when it is designated especially for back to school.
Create a goodbye ritual. Having a goodbye routine provides comfort and familiarity, so your child knows what’s to come. This could be anything you and your child decide on, such as a special hug or handshake followed by a "See you later, alligator!" Once you've said your goodbyes, it's best to skedaddle so that your child doesn't become preoccupied by your presence. A long farewell scene might only serve to reinforce a child's sense that big school is a bad place.
Don’t sneak away. Apparently some Mums and Dads want to bolt once their kid goes throgh the gate. Maybe its a bit of tough love but your little one will feel more afraid if you suddenly disappear. "Mums should never be ripped away abruptly from their child," says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., child and family psychotherapist and the author of The Self-Aware Parent. "It can take up to ten weeks for a child to fully be ready to be left at school without her mother. The best way to handle the separation process is to begin by Mommy going to school with her child.
Bring a comforting object. Have your child bring a little reminder of home to ease their separation anxiety. A little doll or mini action figure in their lunchbox can provide a real sense of security to kids in an unfamiliar environment.
Never make comparisons. Don't give out to your kid and say, "Eimear doesn't cry when her mum leaves”. Being mindful of your kids process is the best way to make the transition to school as smooth as possible.
Remind them that you came back. When you pick them up at the end of the day, reinforce the idea that you came back, just like you said you would. This way, each day's drop-off won't feel like you're both starting teary and upsetting goodbyes all over again.