We love this new guide to helping your little one through those first years at school.
Goodness knows, that first day is scary but the second term can be the most worrying because that’s when you hope to see your little one settle in but some take a bit longer. So if, like me, you’ve the second term nerve-wrecking, the great tips and advice below from Sarah Ebner, the Times journalist and author of the Starting School Survival Guide, will really help…
As the school term continues, you, and your child, will learn so much. But all this pales into insignificance if your child isn’t happy when you drop him off in the morning. So, what can you do?
1) Just go:
Top of the list is to disappear as soon as you can, and ignore your child’s tears. Many teachers say this helps to establish a routine as quickly as possible, as having a parent hanging around means the child won’t settle. It can also set up an expectation that the parent will stay if the child cries hard enough (negative behaviour that can be very hard to shift).
If you can face running away, despite the tears, then this may be the solution for you. You could always ring the school office later on to check that everything has worked out all right. It nearly always will have.
If you planning to follow the “just go” line, then my advice would be to have a proper plan, rather than a simple vanishing act. Whatever you do, stick to what you’ve told your child in advance. Don’t say that you will wait and say goodbye, and then not do it. You need him to feel safe.
Some children have real separation anxiety – they genuinely fear that something will happen to their parents, or even to themselves, while they are at school. If this is true of yours, then you need to agree a plan and break the separation down into gradual steps. For example, you could say that you will bring your child in, hang his coat up, and wait for class to begin. After a few days, explain that while you will hang the coat up, you won’t stay until class begins. Then you suggest simply bringing your child into the classroom. Take it in small steps.
This is something we’ve all done ever since our children were small – stopping a tantrum or tears by bringing out a toy or giving them a job to do. The teacher can get involved here too.
3) Stay for a while:
Not all teachers will want you to go straightaway, so if you are having problems, find out what your school’s policy is. Staying for 10 minutes might make a real difference.
4) Stick it to them!
Children often like charts, at least if they have a reward at the end and this often works well if you suggest a star or sticker each time a child goes into the classroom nicely. Build up, so that if they do a week’s worth, they will get a good treat.
5) Disappear before drop off:
Sometimes children misbehave with their mums, but not with anyone else. Separating at home might be easier to manage, so if you can organise some (hopefully temporary) help, this may prove to be a breakthrough.
6) Remind them of you during the day:
Psychologists call this giving them a “transitional object”. And giving them a bracelet, watch, necklace, or even a note in a lunchbox can be a great help.
Sarah Ebner is the author of the Starting School Survival Guide: everything you need to know when your child starts school, published by White Ladder.
Click here to buy a copy