6 Ways to cope with a crier on his first day of school
Some children (and parents) have a very difficult time being separated from their parents when it's time to start school, whether it's their first time ever attending, or they've gotten a little too used to being at home with their families during the summer. This can mean tears and meltdowns come the first day of school, which is undoubtedly stressful on everyone. It can probaly seem like a hopeless and awful situation to be in, but if you know that your child is introverted, shy or perhaps just very attached, you can prepare for the situation to try and make it go as smoothly as possible. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
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Visit the school/classroom. Sometime in the few weeks before school actually starts, call up and ask to visit the school and if possible, your child's classroom. This visit will serve to familiarize your anxious child with the surroundings and help him to understand that it is a safe and fun place rather than a scary and strange one.
Meet the teacher. Even better if you can schedule that visit for a time when his teacher will be at the school. When you call about visiting, ask if there's a day that the teachers will be on-site, or if you've already received contact information, reach out independently and see if your child's teacher would be willing to meet your little one in advance and help provide some reassurance about the situation.
Explain everything before it happens. Always, always, always take the time to explain to your child what exactly they should expect--even if you don't think they will understand or remember. Explain in detail that you will be getting up early, getting ready for the day, heading off to school via whichever mode of transportation, that your child will be staying with his class/teacher for however many hours and that you will be leaving. Explain what type of activities he might expect and whether or not he will eat a meal or snack at school, as well as who will pick him up, where he will be picked up and how he will get home. Explain to him what to do if he is scared or confused (reach out to his teacher).
Send a secret lovey. If your child is just entering pre-school, it may be okay for her to bring a small lovey or toy with her (just be sure to check with the school first). But if toys from home are not allowed or your child is older and would be embarassed for his classmates to see this, consider creating a secret lovey--a tiny square cut out of a familiar blanket or T-shirt, a small strip of soft ribbon, a piece of your own (costume) jewelry. Anything that reminds your child of you or of the safety of home will do. Just tell her that if she feels sad, to touch or look at the item to help her feel better. Literally, almost anything should work. My mom would sometimes let me wear a little bit of her perfume and smelling my wrist would comfort me when I was away from her and feeling anxious or scared.
Don't linger. When the day arrives, and it's time to say goodbye, don't linger. Lingering will only prolong a potentially negative situation. Hug and kiss your child, reassure her, say goodbye and leave immediately. If the tears have already started, explain once more what she will be doing, where you will be, and when you will be back (recruit the teacher or other staff for help if necessary), then promptly make your leave.
Control your own emotions. Whatever you do, do not let your child know that the situation is upsetting you as well. No tears! Not only will your negative emotions validate her's, but your perceived lack of confidence in the situation will make her feel even more unsure of it herself. Your job is to assure your child that you are leaving them in a safe and fun environment. If you cry or otherwise show that you are also sad or upset, you can't do that in a convincing manner. Keep it together mama!
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