Your child is finding the first few days (or weeks!) at school difficult and you are finding it heart-breaking to leave him in the classroom crying.
You’ve read the books, scanned the articles, done the preparation for preschool but despite all this effort, your child is really reluctant, if not anxious, about staying without you.
In most cases, it’s the parent crying, as their baby leaves the nest! If this happens to you, you will adjust. Just make sure your child doesn’t see your tears. They can be contagious!
When your child’s crying persists, it is heart-breaking. What can you do?
Even some little children who have gone to school happily enough on the first day will buck going the second day. Many a teacher has heard a child say – Well, I have done school and now I don’t have to go anymore!
Take heart – with some hard work and cooperation from the teacher this will all stop.
For a parent, and so many of us have been there, leaving your precious child at school in the hands of someone you don’t really know and in a system you too are learning about, is really difficult. So for a child it can be doubly so!
Even the most outgoing child can have a crisis of confidence and unexpectedly baulk at the classroom door. No wonder parents feel taken off-guard and concerned.
Sensitive children who lack confidence or who worry about new environments and change are even more likely to find the first day and their first separation from mum or dad frightening.
Preparation for this big day is essential for all children.
If parents want separation to be smooth, they will have put in a lot of effort and talking with their child well before the big day.
The day arrives however, and your child clings and cries and doesn’t want you to leave.
The room is busy and bustling with lots of parents and children, noise level is high and the teacher isn’t the one your child met at the orientation/transition days! Despite the school’s best efforts in preparing for the first day, it can still be tough on all.
The very first day
Be flexible and pre-warn the teacher if you have concerns or expect difficulties. You certainly need the support from the teacher, so ask for it.
It is important that after reassuring your child that you will be there for pick-up, you firmly hand your child to the teacher and leave. Most crying children will be diverted by the teacher into activities and stop crying after a few minutes.
Very few children will continue to cry continually during the day and the school usually will have other staff members supporting the Foundation (Prep) teachers on the first few days so they can give their attention to these children.
However, for parents it is back to preparation and support again so this crying pattern is nipped in the bud.
Speak with the teacher to:
- find out if there is a special place your child can go to on entering the room (eg a table with books or activities) and feel safe. If the bustle of going into the classroom is unsettling, talk to the teacher about the child arriving, unpacking and sitting down a couple of minutes before the other children – just for the first couple of weeks
- identify another student with whom your child can enter the classroom and sit with immediately
- when a child’s crying is extremely distressing and goes on for a long time, ask if a message could be sent to the school office so you can ring and check if your child has settled. Sitting at work with your stomach churning with worry is not good for anyone
- keep in contact through the school diary or the school’s preferred means of communication to ensure that your child is settling and to be informed if there is anything you could do to support
- talk about the pick-up spot and show your child the place, reassuring them that you will be there – of course, you do need to be there!
- if grandma, grandad or a fellow parent is the one who will be picking up occasionally, then they need to accompany you on a trial run so that they are just as well informed
- talk with your child and try to work out what is bothering them. Don’t do this straight after school, but later when they are relaxed in the bath, eating tea or when reading their books
- praise your child for having completed the first day at school. “Wow. Imagine all of the fun you’ll have and all of the things you will learn!”
- ensure that they are well with no lurking ear, nose or throat infections. Head lice (not only caught at school!) or threadworm can make some children irritable and out of sorts
As the Scout Motto says: “Be Prepared!”. Get the teacher on side and follow up. Tough it out during the first few days of going to school and soon the tears will be just a memory!