Another great guest post today from Contributing Editor, Emma. A mom of three and a former teacher who has recently moved to the UK, she has had to settle all three kids into new schools this year… and will be doing it again come their new school year! Clearly plenty of experience in this topic…
Having a teaching background and three kids of my own I’ve seen my fair share of school drops off styles over the years.
The parents who linger, the children who cling, the parents who walk, the children who cry, the parents who chat and the children who run off and play.
School drops off when a child is entering a new class or even a new school adds an extra hurdle and, of course, in this COVID-19 season, with the many extra precautions in place and coupled with more generalised anxiety, school drop offs might be more challenging than usual!
Now I don’t think there is one recipe that works, but here is my offering of 10 tips to help your child settle into a new class or school in 2021.
Tips to help your child settle at school drop off
1.Prepare yourself first by making sure you are familiar with all the requirements that your child needs for school, like which type of bag and water bottle etc. Then familiarise yourself with all the dropping off protocols (hands and temp taking etc.), extra safety protocols and school measures such as which gate to use and be aware of any one-way systems that may be in place. If need be, plan where you can park and work out your driving route along with the time it will take during school traffic times to make sure you are not under any pressure. Your child will pick up on your anxiety so keeping calm is key!
2. No lengthy run up to the big day is needed. Although you may be very excited to wave your little one off to school after such a long holiday, your child does not need extra days to dwell on the upcoming transition. A few days before going back to school is enough warning.
3. Clear preparation plans for the big day should be conveyed. State the facts, ‘School starts on Wednesday, you will be in Miss…. class’. Give your child another 3 steps of preparation such as: “Before school starts we’ll be getting your hair cut, buying a new school bag and laying out your new uniform the night before”. You could even draw or write up this plan and let your child be involved in ticking off the “to dos” on the list.
4. Focus on the place and not the people. New people can be scary, and bear in mind that your child does not yet know their new teacher and the new children in their class. For many kids these relationships will take time and they don’t need any extra social pressure on them. Let them take it at their own pace and don’t ask them if they have made new friends on the first day or even in the first few weeks! If possible, take photos of the gate, the classroom, the playground and their locker/hook. These can be great tools to use at home to talk through their experience. Alternatively, show them any virtual school tour that may be available, find pictures online of the school gate, children attending the school and perhaps the playgrounds. These pictures can be chatted about at home, they can form a time of sharing between you and allow your child to become more familiar with the idea of transitioning to a new environment. Draw out a simple map of the school, class and playground. Orientating themselves in a new place can help them to feel more prepared and in control of their environment. Short, light conversations based around these can help a child feel more at ease.
5. Identify the important basics. Make sure your child knows which class they are in, their teacher and any class assistants. Help them know where the toilet is and, with older children, who can assist them at the front office. Remind older children of collection time.
6. Recap important systems. Create a short list together of who they can ask for help when needed. Remind them of any social norms like putting up your hand to ask a question, placing bags in their locker and/or any major rules that would need following, like no leaving the school grounds without you.
7. Practise a personal drop off plan. Write out a step-by-step plan for the actual drop off time. This could include a few steps such as:
- Arrive and mom parks the car
- Walk to the gate carrying my bag
- High five or hug for mom
- Do hand sanitising
- Walk through gate on my own.
It is a good idea to role play this out at a home a few times to allow your child to practise the new routine. This will again reassure them and give them some familiarity of the new routines.
8. Be WELL prepared. Have all lunch boxes, bags, school items packed the night before. Give your child your attention in the morning by eating breakfast together and having some connection time free from rushing and stress.
9. Keep your goodbyes short and simple. Stick to your drop off plan and what you have spoken about. The predictability and structure will help your child in this season of change. Children thrive on routines and these mundane routines will make lasting memories for them and give them security. Try not get too emotional yourself!
10. Acknowledge emotions. Children can experience a whole range of emotions around a new class or school from excitement to fear, anticipation to anxiety. Allow your child time and space to name these, talk about them and support them in helping them know you are a safe place and that you are here to support them every step of the way. In your conversation try to help them come up with ways to overcome the things they see as a challenge.
Remember that with any transition it may take time to adjust so give yourself and your child time and space to make this leap!
Before you know it they will be loving school and looking forward to it every day.
If you have any other tips that might help to make stressful school drop offs easier please do leave a comment below!