Wow, how quick and yet how long do these school holidays seem? At this time of the year you may have experienced a crazy mumma or pappa period… having to expend a lot of energy keeping young ones amused, calm or helping them to return to some level of calmness.
Or you may be chilled out and cruising (way to go if you are)!
What today’s writing is about is managing transition!
Transition to school
Transition to big school or a new school
Transition to high school and even senior college
They are all new experiences, new fears around finding their way, finding their people.
And we can help them prepare for school emotionally … or we can leave them floundering (sure way of getting a stressed out, cranky and emotional child at the end of the school day).
It can be scary walking into a new school environment especially after 6 weeks at home with their siblings – a safe, normal environment.
Suddenly everything is changing and often there’s not a lot of discussion about it.
To prepare for school, I suggest you start talking…
Preparing for School – Pre-School or Kindergarten
For young children it’s often useful to make a story around what will happen on their first and subsequent days…
Build a picture and include the most important aspects such as meeting new friends, what teachers do and get your child to contribute to the story… for example…
“Sometimes other children will look around and will look at you and hold your gaze, or they may come up to talk to you… what do you think you could do to start talking and seeing if you’d like to play with them?”
Help them build strategies for creating and maintaining relationships. As parents, this is one of the most important things to do!
The world runs on relationships!
Try not to tell them what to do… try help them find their way. For example if they suggest something that seems doomed for failure, ask them (in a very gentle inquiring way).. “What do you think would happen if someone did that/said that to you?”
Use toys and play it out.
Help them also with how to manage when they feel lost. This is one time we want them to talk to the strange adult… the teacher! Talk about what they can expect so they have a picture in their mind.
When it comes to the first day, don’t be surprised if their previous excitement is totally gone and suddenly they seem terrified! This is their first time away from you and their familiar environment.
If you can, arrange your time so you can help them reach their classroom for the first few days, until they gain their confidence.
Empathise if they feel stressed…
Go back to the story and help them to feel comfortable with the flow of the day again.
Help them to feel safe and remind them that you’ll be back for them, at the agreed spot… and keep your promise!
Preparing for School – Primary, Middle or a new School
A new environment and potentially a new classroom without old friends… often children get split up into new classes and they need to re-establish relationships again.
Or they maybe starting from scratch at a new school.
Again, it’s up to us to help them adjust to the change and get and understanding of how to form new relationships (they may be a bit rusty with it). Talk about what has worked for them in the past and what has not.
Often at this age children begin with new relationships with trying to establish their fit in the group. They will use language such as “I can do that” or try to “out do” the other child in their language “I’m better than you”.
This is normal…
It’s a way of trying to find their place in the chaos of new relationships and groups. To establish a hierarchy of who’s who in the play ground.
They will grow out of it.
We can also help them with this by talking it through, without judgement… just exploring ways of connecting and feeling safe in a relationship… and how to manage ones that are not good for them.
The social dynamics of primary school can be harrowing for young people, so they need a safe place to talk about these at home.
Bullying is rife, so help them to understand the signs and explore strategies for dealing with it.
Encourage your child to talk by trying not to dictate, but to explore, empathise, listen and navigate ways of connecting and responding to negative behaviour in the playground and classroom.
Children at this age need help to deal with relationships, especially negative behaviours towards them. It’s important that you, as the adult, don’t immediately jump in and “fix it” by talking to the teacher/principal. Do that if it’s obviously causing serious harm, but hopefully if you get in early, you can help them navigate it before it gets bad.
Help them to speak up for themselves. Assert their needs and respond appropriately.
Help them to feel supported by finding the right relationships to face challenging situations.
This helps them when they get older too.. which brings me to..
Preparing for school – High School, Senior College and Uni
You may think that by this stage most teenagers have it sorted! Not true… the nervousness of new school… a new social system to navigate and a new classroom structure, with differing teachers is just as overwhelming as when we (adults) step into a new work environment!
Look for signs of those nerves hitting… withdrawal, quietness, snapping at you/siblings, sleep problems and eating problems.
Talk about their strategies for managing the new social scene, bullying or the stress of studying. High school can be a tough environment socially. So it’s important you maintain a vigilance around your teen’s mood for signs of stress.
Emotionally they may be withdrawing from you but practically, they need you more than ever!
A strong relationship with your teen at this stage will help them recover from many social pressures.
Help them prepare for school and for the big jump in study load by exploring ways to manage and keep on top of it. Where possible, DO NOT set the study schedule for them! It’s important that they learn how to manage their own study time… to take responsibility for it. They may need help setting up good study habits but let them decide what works for them… let them experiment. Help them to review their experiments and tweak for the best outcome.
This is what they will need to do as an adult, take responsibility for their study and relationships… prepare them early and you’ll save yourself a lot of angst.
Let me tell you the trick to managing teenage hormones and stress…
Listen to them
Empathise… feedback what they say to you, use emotions (name the emotion). Feel their pain from a distance. Help them to find solutions for themselves. Be there for them!
The sure fire way to lose them?
Criticism, judge them, moralize, preach, interrogate, praise them when they are down, jump in and try to fix their problems and yell and punish them.
If you want to maintain a good healthy relationship with your teen, then come first with respect in your heart, thoughts, words and attitude.
With this approach, together you can solve any issue.
What about academic achievements?
Now if you’ve read all of this post then you may realise that a large part preparing for school and managing stress is actually around social and emotional well being.
The learning environment is enhanced for any child when they feel safe, accepted and respected as a person.
The importance of helping them develop relationships and maintain them should be paramount to teachers and parents a like. Unfortunately we often just focus on the academic side of school.
Your child will perform to their best if they first feel connected and accepted. Then learning becomes easy because they can focus on the lessons instead of what’s occurring in the playground.
Then as they grown older we can help them by becoming self driven and responsible for their learning and achievements.