I don’t even really know how to start this; it’s been that long since I’ve written (well, uploaded, my drafts folder is pretty full…). My last post was about getting my daughter ready for starting school in September and I intended to follow it up with an update a few weeks later when we were all settled in.
Only it didn’t really go like that. We anticipated that it would take her some time to find her feet and that there would be some tears, but nothing could’ve prepared us for how tough those initial weeks were.
Our poor, poor girl was a big ball of anxiety. She would pace the room, she was crying and worrying all the time, even at the weekend, she was waking up upset throughout the night and yet when she was at school she was mostly fine, but at home it was awful. Having to take her there and leave her sobbing everyday was absolutely heartbreaking.
If any of this sounds at all familiar to you, or if your child starts school next year and you’re worried then please don’t despair! It took a long time but by week 7 we were making improvements and as we got up to half term she was no longer crying at drop off and honestly, it felt like we had our little girl back.
I tried to do a few things at home to help her. I made a ‘worry box’ (loads of ideas on Pinterest) for when she was feeling anxious which contained some books about feeling worried, pens and paper, a windmill to encourage deep breaths and some slimy putty to keep her hands busy. I’m not sure how much it worked to be honest but I felt like I had to do something proactive to at least try and comfort her.
I spoke with her very lovely teachers but obviously there wasn’t anything that they could do for her at home and she was settling quicker and quicker each day for them. It was always such a relief when they’d say she’d been happy at school after I’d been worrying about her all day. It was the anxiety about leaving me and the length of the day that was troubling her.
We tried that sweet idea that was going around on Facebook of drawing little hearts on our hands but then she was worried about washing her hands and it coming off so that didn’t really work.
Here are a few things that actually made a difference to us:
- Lots of consistency. Every weekday morning was basically the same so that she could adjust to our new routine. I got a wall planner for her room where she could tick off the days so that she could see when she was at school and how long until the weekend. She was becoming obsessed with counting the days and this really helped to stop that, once she could visualise her week she became much calmer.
- Positive words. I NEVER tell her I miss her when she’s at school. I really, really do, but she’s 4 and does not need to be worrying about my emotions as well as hers. Even at the start when I was fighting back the tears I would have big smiles and just talk about how exciting it was and how I couldn’t wait to pick her up and hear about the lovely things she’d done. I would then often cry all the way home after dropping her off but that’s fine, she had no idea.
- I get her to make her own decisions as much as possible, even very trivial things, so that she still feels like she has some control over her life. It wasn’t long ago that it was the summer holidays and she just played all day then all of a sudden she’s going off to school for 6 hours. Every morning she chooses her breakfast, how she’s having her hair and which clips she wants, she picks her own pants etc etc. There is so much that she has to do now so it’s important that she can dictate as much as possible.
- Chat to other parents at the school gate. The chances are, they are having some struggles with it all too and you’re definitely not alone. It’s a big adjustment even for the most confident of children. I know you hear a lot about the ‘cliques’ at school but I’ve honestly never witnessed anything but true solidarity and have met some really, really lovely women. So don’t try and soldier on alone!
- The most frustrating one, TIME. It seemed to take her so much longer than a lot of her classmates and I can’t lie, it was so difficult reading about how well everyone else’s children were doing and how everyone just loved school (not that I would wish this struggle on ANYONE, it was just hard to not compare). There were many times when it all felt too much and I wondered if we’d ever get there. But we did. And it feels absolutely glorious. Seeing our girl skipping off with her friends every morning is such a joy and I feel so grateful.
I was worried about her going back to school after half term in case it set us back a bit but she’s settled straight back in and is always happy to go. I mean, she’s exhausted by Friday but she always says that’s she’s had a good day and Parents Evening has confirmed that!
I don’t think I can put into words how difficult and upsetting those initial weeks were, for the whole family, but we’re so proud of how well she’s coped and can’t wait to see how she evolves over the next year.
Thanks for reading,
Knight Mummy x