Leaving the familiar behind is hard for anyone. Some little ones find it extra difficult to make the transition from being at home or in care to starting school. Often it’s just the transition itself – the walk to school and the drop off – that poses a challenge., and then anxieties subside once inside with friends and educators.
Often a little preparation like a heartfelt conversation and a big hug and kiss are all that’s required to get through those first tough few days of school or daycare. But if your little one is finding the transition particularly difficult, talk it out. They need to know they can talk to you about their feelings and know that you will listen. Start of school anxiety can arise in large part from the unknown. Talk to your little one about how the day will go, what they’ll see on the way to school, how they can fill their backpack, what they can take for lunch or snack, the name of their teacher, friends who may be in the playground, and some of the things they might do once in the classroom. Take away the unknown and replace it with all sorts of ideas about the possibilities of things to come; such as learning to write and making new friends and having a special place to hang their coat and backpack.
If you are concerned about your child’s transition think about their personality and the way they react to certain situations. How can you best help them maneuver through this new transition while giving them skills they can apply to future situations?
I have found that with my own kids and many other kids I know, providing a little extra courage in the form of an object can give them something to hold on to, both in a real sense and emotionally. It might be something they leave at home in a special drawer, carry with them for the journey to school, or even take into the classroom. We gave my eldest what we called a “bravery bracelet.” I made sure I had a few tucked away in case the original was lost and we made putting it on a part of our morning routine. With our goodbye I would tell him the bracelet would remind him of how brave he was and all the exciting things he would learn by being a kid who was ready to go to school. He was proud of his bracelet and enjoyed explaining it to his teacher and classmates. By the end of the first week I saw him sharing it with friends whom he felt “needed to borrow its power.” Another mom I know gave her little ones feathers inspired by the Disney character Dumbo’s “magic” feather to remind them to believe in themselves. If you decide to introduce an object to inspire bravery, courage, strength, etc, make sure it’s small, worn close, and can be tucked in a pocket or clipped to a backpack.
(see our Feather making tutorial here)
Finally, remember to keep drop off short and sweet, keep positive, and remind your little ones that you will see them again at the end of the day.
For other ideas on how to alleviate back to school stress for little ones check out this article:
Did you do something special to help your little one through the first days of school? Let us know in the comments.