Christmas has been and gone, now parents have ‘back to school’ to navigate. The book lists, the contacting of books, the uniforms….. Only a few weeks to go and you will find yourself driving to the school carpark on the first day of school. Some kids will be sooooo excited to see their friends, find out what class they are in and other kids may be dreading this day - so if you hear these words ‘my tummy is sore’ or ‘I feel sick’ the day that school begins or as you are driving in the car, now before you mentally calculate what they ate for breakfast? Or dinner last night? Take a second and think bigger – what your child is trying to say is ‘I feel nervous!’.
Other signs of first day (or week) nerves are quietness in the car or at breakfast, going to the toilet a lot before you leave, holding your hand, asking you if you will stay, staying close to you, panic, tears, hysteria!
Now for the challenge, if your child is nervous what do you do? How is it best to respond? As simple as it sounds, simply tell your child that they are nervous, or anxious. It’s the anxiety making their tummy feel sick. Tell them that’s ok. We all get nervous at different times. The best way to manage is to have a plan of what they are going to do when they – get out of the car, walk down the pavement, get to the classroom, go inside etc. So make sure that you both come up with a plan, ie. put your bag on the bag rack, will your name be there? Take out your lunchbox, drink, hat, find a friend to chat with or find a seat.
The aim here is two fold – firstly to get their brain thinking about something else other than their nerves and secondly to give them a step by step plan of what to do (they and you will notice here that the anxiety fades away). At their classroom find a friend to chat too about the holidays, if they do not know anyone, ask someone else a question ie. can you tell me where the toilets/tuckshop is…., distraction is once again the aim.
Upon arrival at their classroom, make them comfortable, do what you need, say a clear goodbye and leave (don’t sneak out no matter how tempting as this will make it harder tomorrow). The longer loving mum or dad hangs around the harder it becomes for kids that are nervous. Before you leave give them a task to do – sharpen your pencils, play on the computer, sit on the carpet, put your books in the desk, soon as they start this task, leave quickly! Then make sure you are there on time, to pick them up at the end of the day with a smile. Spend extra time talking about their day and how they felt in the afternoon.