Over on our Facebook page we have been sharing information and tips to help parents understand and support their child during back to school season.
Sometimes children settle really well only to get tired and frustrated with school after a couple of weeks, others can struggle with separation anxiety and MOST children will have an over-spill of emotions as tiredness creeps up on them.
We have a whole blog post dedicated to 'school tantrums' here.
School can be hard for children to cope with, they have a LOT to think about in a school day:
I miss mummy.
Put your hand up.
Sit still on the carpet.
Be kind to others.
Have a good day for mum and dad.
Don't shout out.
I miss daddy.
Go to the toilet.
Ask to go to the toilet.
When can I go home?
What's this funny feeling in my tummy?
That's just a small snapshot of some of what children experience. Expectations put on children throughout a school day are not always developmentally appropriate. It's not easy for them, especially given what we know about the development of their frontal cortex; which is responsible for impulse control, judgement and handling emotions amongst other things.
We thought we'd put a post on the website correlating all of the information shared on Facebook over the past week. How are YOU coping with the transitions? It can be hard letting go of different stages of their childhood; we have a blog post all about this here.
Have a read through and if you have any questions do get in touch, if we have a resource or answer to help you then we will gladly share it.
Routine - Morning and After School
It’s natural to be apprehensive about going back to school, try not to be dismissive and ‘fix’ it for them.
Work through their worries with them by first acknowledging and validating it for them; you don’t want them to feel bad for experiencing normal feelings to a situation.
Talk through your routine in advance and try and give them a little control over the situation by listening to their needs of the morning and what they need after school. See what you can come up with together!
It’s a nerve wracking time leaving our care givers to go to school, I can remember the feeling like it was yesterday!
As someone who suffered from awful separation anxiety as a child, as well as being a parent of a summer born child who struggled, I know the importance of the small things to help ease the transition.
Sometimes we will do anything to make it stop because we feel so useless, it hurts to see our child so upset, but it’s really important to validate how they are feeling and not caught up with trying to fix it for them.
This is a favourite strategy of ours here at Bridge the Gap, we have used it many times. It’s great to build up a ‘toolbox’ of strategies to try out.
Bridge the Gap often get messages from parents who are dealing with a child's change in behaviour around this time. Always take a look at the routine, what opportunities are there for your child to re-charge their batteries?
As adults we need regular breaks and time to zone out a little, after school is a good time for children to get this time. They'be been listening and self-regulating the best they can all day, it's now time for them to exhale.
Bedtimes can become an issue for parents as well. Your child may want you to stay for longer so be prepared to be reflective and look at their evening routine, what can you change in that last hour before bed to make them feel more connected to you?
If you end up sitting with them and rubbing their back as they fall asleep, don't worry that you're making 'a rod for your own back'. Children will learn to sleep without you over time, their needs sometimes mean they need you a little more than usual. Just the other night I stayed with my 12 year old until she drifted off to sleep, the next night she went to bed fine, it's what she needed from me at the time.
I want her to know she can reach out and ask me for comfort when she needs to, the fact she knows I will give it to her means that she bedtimes soon return to their normal pattern. Sometimes just knowing that you will come is enough. Seasons pass, they never stay. We have a blog-post on this here.
Tantrums are emotionally draining for parents to deal with, especially when they seem to escalate quickly or they are going through a stage that means they are experiencing a range of new emotions (such as starting school); especially when lots of new emotions happen at once.
Children haven't the language or practice to know how to articulate it any other way. Ensure your home has an emotionally rich environment, enjoy emotional literacy games, stories and activities and welcome the tantrum into your home.
Don't ignore it, or tell them to stop, acknowledge and validate how they feel before moving on.
Tantrums are valuable experiences for them and are a part of their emotional development, so look after yourself, take time to unload how you feel at little points throughout the day and be safe in the knowledge that each stage is a season and seasons pass.
Anxiety and Worry
Children can experience lots of different worries and experience anxiety around the subject of school. Firstly it's important to differentiate between anxiety and worry, there is a free download to help you have this conversation with your child here.
It's then important to know what to say to help them feel safe, but not get you caught up in a cycle of constant reassurance. Go zen have a wonderful article entitled '49 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child' and we have created a downloadable leaflet version for you as well. It's handy to have around the house to read up on. Reminding yourself of phrases that may help your child through their worries or anxiety is a great way to build your parenting toolkit!
What can I say?!
It can be difficult to know the right thing to say at times, it feels like a minefield out there right?! There are some really easy ways of validating how your child feels, you can read a short post on this here - 'Five Easy, Powerful Ways to Validate your Child's Emotions'.
There are also some useful examples below.
It can be an unnerving time when our child goes through a transition, for us and them, and we need to be kind to ourselves. It always comes back to the power of our relationships and connections.
We don't need to 'fix it' for our children, but we can empathise, love and parent them unconditionally,
To quote my inspiration Brene Brown, if you have nothing else to say, you're unsure what to do, then remember THIS -
"I don't even know what to say right now, I'm just so glad you told me".
Be kind to yourselves.