As your last-minute preparations for the impending school run kick in, and the new adventures your children are about to embark on (be it a new school, class or year) loom near, you will have to start planning for changes that are just around the corner and have an impact on everyone in the home. Prepare for early rising and negotiations about choosing lunchboxes and snacks to pack! For Iola, these are all exciting things that she sees for the first time in our house this week.
With all these changes during the back-to-school month of September, being able to support Iola and Effi during the transition is important to us. We thought we would share some of the ways that we have been creating positivity in between the exhausting preparations and the lack of sleep. The secret is having some positive phrases to say to your child, with the intention of them becoming your child’s inner voice as the months and years go by at school.
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF MAINTAINING POSITIVITY AT SCHOOL
There are 5 simple principles that we TRY to keep in mind (yes, it’s a struggle we wrestle with when we’re late for the run and we’re still wearing our PJs, have cereal-infused sick down one shoulder, and our eldest has her skirt on back to front and shoes on the wrong feet!). Your children should be aware that:
-School is just another place to learn and meet new people.
-You will always come home at the end of the day, no matter what has happened.
-You can be in control of your learning and success – just use your words to best explain what you want to say.
-Frustration is good. Take a breath and ask for help, there is always someone willing to teach you.
-You can learn from what other people say as much as from the conversation. Listen first, then you learn.
Whilst we have always reverted to some internet-inspired oracle for guidance on parenting that will uniquely fit into our lifestyle, choices and family setup, we know it is rare that we can apply anything without alterations.
INSPIRATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT AS MANTRAS
We have always had multiple inspirations and guidance points in our journey so far. We felt it would be useful to share some of the phrases that we use or hope to use, over the coming weeks and months:
“You are capable of anything, but you must first try everything to find out how.”
It is said that children need to hear this, not only on their first days of school but throughout the year. This phrase is targeting teaching your kids perseverance and exploration. It is an important affirmation that puts them in an open mindset and triggers the adventurous streak all kids have.
“Teamwork is the best work.”
Doing things with others has so many benefits for kids: it makes them feel socially confident, and understand that there are others around that can help. It puts them into a collaborative mindset. We have referred to the family as a team, doing things for each other, for team Morton. We teach them to try and have a great time doing whatever. We hope Iola can apply this principle at school, doing the tasks in the classroom, playground, or in the forest.
“All mistakes teach you something new.”
Mistakes are common and frustrating. With temper running short in the house, shouting is the natural response. We have, many times, encouraged taking a deep breath and asking for guidance (calmly). Ultimately, talking through the process aloud encourages a useful method: your child processes what they did and how and why it failed, and then the parent (or a teacher in this case) has the ability to calmly guide them to the solution. It focuses their drive to persevere, but help from a grown-up makes it a shared experience. When processing a day later over supper, they will often refer to that shared experience of overcoming some sort of adversity.
“Always be as friendly towards others as you would want a friend to be to you.”
Good manners are always the best way to get help. As with any interaction with family, friends, adults at large and so on, we have always required our child to find the words to ask nicely. Asking them how they want friends to treat them encourages them to think about others and their perspective. Learning to share an adult’s attention, or not allowing to be pressured by their peers to be mean to someone just because, encourages independence and a sense of ethics, and instills a moral compass.
“We believe in you and support you – always.”
Children need to feel support in order for their self-esteem and confidence to flourish. To create a feeling of protection and support even in the case of failure, children (and Iola in particular) require our ability to pick them up and show them our support in order to try again.
“You have all that you need inside you, just challenge yourself and you’ll see.”
Creating positivity around a feeling of being out of their comfort zone – by challenging themselves – provides a good foundation for life throughout school, teenage years and into adulthood. It also tackles the “perfection” conundrum that children – Iola certainly – struggle with most days. Chances are that your child will struggle at some point with a task, concept, or subject while at school. In those moments it will be helpful for them to remember that they don’t have to be the best at everything, but they must try their hardest.
“I’m going to drop you off, then you’ll meet your teacher, you will meet new friends and have lunch…”
On the 1st day, kids have no expectations or a frame of reference when it comes to the school experience. Trying to give them an order of things that will happen before you drop them off should give them a sense of security and safety. We found that allowing them to repeat it back to you means they understand what you told them, and it helps them process it. It gives them time to think of questions and gets their minds to imagine what the first playtime or first encounters might be like in the new environment. Exciting!
“Who could you ask for help?”
Asking an open-ended question develops your child’s problem-solving skills, and helps them tackle problem solving with greater confidence. Asking them this just before they start something new or potentially scary gets them thinking about how they can work as a team or find support, and it takes their mind off of whatever it is that is scaring them.
GOOD PARENTING IS NOT JUST PROTECTING YOUR CHILD – IT’S ALSO PREPARING THEM FOR INDEPENDENCE
Overall – as much as there may be tears from both mum/dad and child on their first days of school, it’s best to embrace them, and then give them (and yourself) the freedom to spend 6 hours apart without fuss. The time apart will make your relationship with your children even stronger. And remember: in a room full of kids and parents, your child is not looking for the perfect parent, they’re looking for YOU, ALWAYS! They don’t care about the little things that we feel make up the “perfect” parent. They just care that we are theirs.