We have all faced it….those first few days and weeks, when our little ones leave the nest and head out there, to the first school or playschool ever, when the time first comes for our darlings to leave us for a few hours and spend an important part of their day with another, or more people, other than you, and get affected by it.
It may all be fine for you, and things may start to fall in a routine for your baby and you – the mornings a rush-hour of cuddling up to little baby to wake her up, to kiss that tilted head of soft tresses lying on that Minnie mouse pillow, to nudge those soft cotton hands and tickle that cute pudgy tummy, telling her it’s morning again and time again for school. Mornings become the time to hurry and run behind her to get her to finish her bowl of breakfast, to make her ready, to tie those cute ponytails with the matching ribbons, getting those tiny feet into the tiny little school shoes…mornings become fun…to take her in your arms and get her seated in the school bus….and it’s so much fun to see her wave back at you with that smile on her face and to hear her say ‘Mamma don’t be sad, I will come in the afternoon and play with you….’ Mornings are fun….
But then, how does all this suddenly change? Do you see those signs that were bothering her? That can grow so big that all these mornings change?
The first thing you may notice can be the clinginess, the stress in that little head and heart, that worry that morning would mean going back to school…
How do you help?
Talking to your child is the key to help them ease their worries, but talking to a toddler about their fears can sometimes be really directionless – if these little ones are scared or confused, many times they will not be able to word their concern, and a parent has to constantly work his/her way around different topics and play around with words to know where the problem lies. Talk to your baby about many things – what happened in school, who came to class, who are the friends, who do they like in class, who they do not like in class at all, what did the teacher say, did baby cry in school, why did baby cry…so many things that can be aimed at reaching that one point – to know where the fears lie. It’s quite difficult and may take a lot of time and patience, but do keep talking and trying.
The worst thing for a parent is to keep a straight face when your child is going to school scared and crying…you cannot let them see your worry, yet it’s so difficult to hide. You need to be strong and assure your child that all will be well, that mummy is right here, waiting for baby to be back, that after school is always mummy-time, but keeping yourself calm and in control while your baby is screaming and begging you to not let go is an achievement, something that you absolutely need to become a master of.
Next step is to have a word with the class teacher, to know what is going on, did someone scare baby unknowingly, was someone bullying, or was the baby bothering others and losing friends? Take an appointment and meet the teacher.
Give baby all your time, even if both of you are working, but try and make it a point to keep a balance between work and home. Minimise the laptop time at home and try and create as much baby-mamma time with your work as you can.
Initially, try and accompany your child to school, to help ease the fear a bit, to convince them that mamma would be there outside school, that baby will be safe and with her best friend – her mamma. Of course it is difficult, especially if you are a working mother, to drop and pick up your child each day from school, but some things are really more important than anything else in the world – isn’t it? And we as parents are smart enough to manage our hours in ways that will not really affect the work. It’s okay if you cannot personally do this each day. If you really don’t have that option, why not take the help of a family member or a close friend who baby is comfortable with? A few days of dropping at school and picking up from school can ease the worries a lot….
Sometimes, it may also be required to get a little firmness in your voice to let baby know that they really need to listen to mamma papa about certain things. Don’t scold or shout, talk to them gently but firmly, tell them they have to go to school to grow big like mamma papa, and then they can go to office, just the way they want (I think ALL babies want to go to office). Talk about all the positive things about going to school.
In the initial scare-stage, when baby is absolutely refusing to go to school, plan a few surprises…’don’t cry at school, be a good girl, and we will go for a movie’, ‘you have been a good girl at school this whole week, so I want to take you out for a treat for your favourite food’, ‘see, you have been such a grown up baby, did not cry in school at all, so here is a big mommy bag for you’……it’s really okay to once-in-a-while bribe your child for going to school and not crying the whole day. Once they start settling in, they will begin to enjoy their day..the key is to convince them to be in school and also to not make bribing a regular activity. They need to want to go to school for school, not for the extras it brings later.
Keep an eye on the school, know your child’s teachers and make it a point to interact with them, who your baby interacts with on a daily basis, keep an eye on the driver and conductor of the bus in which your baby travels, talk to them, talk to other parents and see if they have faced the same situations.
Sometimes, a parent may do everything and baby may still not agree to go back…think about talking to your child’s school counselor. Almost all schools have a school counselor these days, so it is really best to have a session with your child and the counselor. I know you may have a lot of apprehensions in your mind, many people think of too much baggage with the term ‘counsellor’, but sometimes, a counselor may just talk the very same things with your baby that you did; its just that, sometimes, babies tend to tell others a completely different version of things than they may have told you….that could be the first key to bringing back your baby’s smile and to ease those fears…..
It can also simply be a case of baby spending a long vacation at home and not wanting to go back to routine. It’s best to be prepared for such a situation before it hits you. So try and keep as much of the routine during vacations as you can. And once schools reopen, try and do some fun at home too, to keep the balance.
DON’T LOSE YOUR COOL…REMAIN PATIENT…your baby will gradually ease out of this fear, and that lovely smile will be back, waving at you and heading to a great day at school.