So it’s time to be getting ready for pre-school or school and not everybody is looking forward to it! Here are 5 ways to make the transition a little easier for our children. I’m reading Deborah MacNamara’s book Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One) which I love for its focus on relationships rather than behaviour. It’s all about attachment, interaction, and relationships- these are primary. So going to pre-school or school, whether it’s for the first time or returning after school holidays is a separation. And we’re creatures of attachment; not separation. Being at school is long separation for small children. Young children are primarily emotional until age 5 at the very earliest. Before age 5, they can only feel one thing at a time which is why they can go from rage to tears to smiles in a startling way-startling to us at least! It’s between the ages of 5 and 7 that they can experience mixed feelings like looking forward to going back to school and a little worried about what it will be like. Or excited to go to a birthday party and nervous about not knowing anyone there. Or feeling like saying sorry and not feeling like saying it at the same time.
Our children need us to fill up their attachment buckets until they’re full. Then they can rest secure in the connection with us and make their way out into the world. They can’t become independent without first experiencing dependence and feeling that it’s safe to depend; knowing that we’re there for them and that we’re up to the job of taking care of them.
One thing our children need to experience in their attachment journey is keeping their parents close while we’re apart from them. And it’s our responsibility to set that up for the. Reason won’t work so saying this like it’s only a half day, or you’re a big girl now or you have to go to school won’t help. Those kinds of statements appeal to reason and children are not reasonable! Ignoring what we see as clinginess won’t make it go away. What will help ease the separation and allow our children to hold us close when we’re apart? Nothing fancy really and much depends on your individual child- you’ll know best what will work for them. What we need to focus on is ‘when we meet again’ part of the situation and not so much on the saying good bye. There’s a lot we can do to help them make the transition from home to school. Here are 13 ideas for you to try.
#1 First thing in the morning
Sleep is a separation and when our children wake up they have been separated from us for several hours. (I know, I know, It doesn’t make sense-it’s not supposed to! It’s emotion, not reason!) Then there’s only a small amount of time before they’ll be separating from us again to be in school all day. Small actions make all the difference and needn’t take long.
So I noticed when my little girl was 4, that she protested when I went in the shower- every morning! I made one small change which made a huge difference to the quality of our morning. I set my alarm for about 15 minutes earlier than usual and woke her up to snuggle and cuddle first, letting her know how delighted I was to see her. (I have to admit it nearly killed me to wake her up but it was worth it!) While we were snuggling, I put the focus on looking forward to having breakfast together after my shower and it has worked a treat (most days!). Now that she’s older, I still get in beside her in the morning before she wakes up. She’s not a morning person so it’s a much nicer start to the day than repeating ‘It’s time to get up!’ followed by fraying tempers!
#2 When it’s time to say goodbye at preschool, school, or childcare
Keep your words focused on the meeting again part of the relationship rather than on the good-bye. Let them know how much you’re looking forward to seeing them later. You can talk about something you’re planning to do together later like reading a story at bedtime or drawing a picture or watching Charlie and Lola or Angelina Ballerina – the current obsession in our house! This helps them hold on to you and puts the focus on the return rather than the separation. Au revoir as opposed to adieu.
#3 Give them something of yours to hold onto
This doesn’t have to be anything fancy either.
- It could be a note in their lunch box. A Post-It will do. I used to do fancy kirigami (paper cutting) ones from a kit I had and it was great to focus on I wonder what kind of note you’ll find in your lunch box today. And it never really mattered what was in them really. It was usually things like Lots of hugs and kisses or Whose my girl? or Can’t wait to see you later.
- Or it could be a locket with a photo of a parent.
- Of a scarf of yours to wear. Connecting through the senses is one of the first ways our children attach to us so a scarf will smell of you.
- Or how about wearing your perfume?
- Or giving them a pencil that you really like to have in their pencil case.
- Or a little torch attached to school trousers.
- I used to make origami hearts – one for me and one for my little girl. She kept hers in the pocket of her uniform and knew that when she held it, I was thinking of her.
- Another mother I know told her little girl that if she blew a kiss to her mummy, it travelled all the way to their house and her mum would feel the kiss.
#4 Make these books your bedtime stories
There are two wonderful books that reassure children that the relationship is forever, no matter what. One is “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst. It talks about the heart connection we all hold with those we love, even when we can’t be with them physically. And another great one is Debi Gliori’s “No Matter What” which reassures the child that the relationship with the parent is safe, no matter what.
#5 Make time for a parting hug and kiss
This is another way for our children to hold us close while apart. Older children might resist in front of their peers. In that case, a loving touch on the arm, a look of delight on your face, or a smile will do. It’s so easy to forget our attachment manners in the rush to the bus or the car but this is totally worth doing. Do if for yourself if nothing else- it’s heart warming and a precious moment in our day.
I’d love to hear what you tried out and how it went so please comment below. I’d also be really delighted if you passed this post onto a friend that might be interested. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for more speech, language, communication, and connection tips at the top of the post (on the right).
Let’s get talking!