For parents of kindergarten children, the first weeks of school can be fraught with emotion.
While it’s often mum who sheds the most tears as their little one happily bounces up the school pathway, but for parents whose children are overwhelmed, the emotions are even tougher.
If your child is having tears and tantrums before school each morning, or is struggling to let go at the school gate, these tips from psychologist and teacher Collett Smart will help.
Keep Following the Routine
Routine is crucial for children who tend to be a little anxious, says Collett.
“Just keep up the routine,” she advised. “Routines make children feel very secure and very comfortable. Make it the same each morning. Don’t stress if you’re a bit late some mornings, but try and keep it as routine as possible.
“And have a good bed-time routine at night.”
Be Calm and Patient With Your Child’s Tears
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
Try your best not to be upset if your child is struggling with the idea of going to school, and give them grace for their emotions, says Collett.
“Children are very tired in their first few weeks at school, not just because of the physical, but because of the emotional stress,” she said.
“It does end, and they do get used to it. Hang in there. If parents are unsettled, the children pick up on that, so just really try and get yourself calm and your children will be calmer.”
Ask Your Teacher for Support
Teachers are trained to manage children’s behavioural issues, including first-week-of-school tears and tantrums. So ask them for suggestions and make them your ally in helping your child adjust.
“They’re very good at knowing what to do when children are crying,” said Collett.
Kiss Them Goodbye, Then Walk Away
While a parent’s instinct is to hold onto their upset child and soothe their tears away, long goodbyes won’t help little ones to adjust to their new environment.
“We want to hang on and keep comforting, but it just prolongs the agony.”
“You should kiss and leave,” Collett said. “We want to hang on and keep comforting, but it just prolongs the agony.”
As a former teacher herself, she reassures parents that teary children will be just fine with a quick kiss and cuddle.
“I taught kindy in my very early years of teaching and I’ve seen that children settle very quickly after mum or dad are out of sight,” she said.
Give Them A Comforting Trinket
For children who are particularly anxious, Collett suggests giving them a memento of some kind that will remind them of home and comfort them.
“Give them something comforting you choose together that you pop in their lunch box or their pocket, or even a keyring that can’t get lost,” she said. “Say to them, ‘Every time you look at that, think of mummy and know that I’m thinking of you’.”
Something to Eat After School
Giving your child an after-school snack “as fast as you can” is a helpful distraction for anxious children, says Collett. She has experienced this herself as a parent.
“That worked with my youngest,” she said. “If I didn’t give him food as fast as I could, the meltdown was prolonged!”
Make Sure Your Child has a ‘Quiet’ Time
At the end of the school day, some downtime is important to soothe their emotions and help them to unwind. And while it’s not always possible, Collett’s preference is an activity without a screen involved.
“I’m not anti-TV, but other things that can calm them or quieten their minds so that they can just relax a little when they get home are the most helpful,” she said.
“Routines are a big thing for the afternoon. Keep the routine going so they settle quickly and get used to what happens in their afternoons.”
Remember, You’re Not a Bad Parent
Some children tend to have their meltdown at the end of the school day, when they are exhausted and at the end of their tether. But remember: they are a child learning to cope with life’s challenges, and it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible parent.
“They hold onto their emotions so well during the day, and they will fall apart at home,” Collett said, “and it can be exhausting for the parent when they have a huge tantrum at the end of the day. But it’s ok. You’re not a bad parent.”