September brings a lot of fresh starts, new class in school, new extra-curricular and new family routines. Everyone adjusts differently so here's how you can support your family!
How to prep your child for their new class!
Whether its a new class in school, or an extra-curricular; it can be equally as scary to start. I've been on both sides of the puzzle now, as an ECE working in daycares and as an instructor running a dance, yoga or fitness class, and now as a mom who has dropped off her very sad toddler at his first day of preschool. I always try and put myself in the Childs shoes... how would I feel if someone I loved took me to a random place I had maybe never seen before, or at least, wasn't familiar with, and gave me a hug and said "have fun" and then walked away and left me to "figure it out" on my own... I would be terrified. I don't know about you, but when I don't feel like I don't know what's going on, I feel the anxiety creeping in.
So how can we support our child when we are about to encounter a new place?
Step 1: Talk about it. Talk about it talk about it talk about it.
Share with them all the fun things they will get to do at their new class, talk about the friends they will meet, talk to them about their teacher, talk to them about what they might see or do, if theyre old enough - ask them questions about how they're feeling. Boost it up as though it's going to be the best. thing. ever.
Step 2: Visuals
You can drive by the location, play at the park at the new school, show pictures of where they're going to be (if you can). Create a visual count down to reinforce how many days until the new thing is going to take place.
Step 3: Reinforce
The night before, have another conversation about it: "Tomorrow you get too ____, and while you're at class, mama is going to do some work (or get a coffee, or sit and wait, or what ever your child already is familiar with you doing), and then, after you're all done having fun, mama will come back and get you!
Then, in the morning, do the same! "Today you get too _____"
On the way to the class, you guessed it, do it again! "We're getting in the car to go
too ___, I cant wait to hear about all the fun you are going to have! It's going to be so fun!"
Step 4: Make drop off quick
This is the hardest part. When I dropped my kiddo off at preschool for the first time, he was devestated that I wans't staying. This was the first time he was really being left (outside of with family) and he was likely confused, worried, and scared. I reinforced that he was going to have so much fun with new friends, and after he played outside I would be coming back to get him. I gave him a big hug, told him I was going to work now, and then walked away. This was only possible because I had a deep sense of trust in the educators working with him that they would do everything in their power to help him transition, and they would call me if he wasn't settling in.
Even after the last 10 years of me working with kids, studying development and seeing proof of this time and time again, it was still hard, however, it worked. Within a few moments, he was off playing, happy, and did great the entire time!
It might seem easier, but don't just sneak away. Children continuously check in - even if you haven't notice - as they are playing they are always checking back to see your reaction, to confirm they're doing the right thing, so when your child looks back and finds you missing, it actually can cause more panic and fear because now they don't actually know if or when you will be back.
Step 5: Reinforce... again
When you pick your child up from the activity, reinforce that you always come back, have a very positive tone, ask them how their day was, and make sure that everything that comes from you is positive (we will talk about this more in a moment).
Step 6: Repeat
Head back to step 1 and continue to repeat before each time they go to class until it is no longer scary for them. It might take a few times, they may seem great for the first few weeks and then regress, and they might need to move through this process for every single class they go to, but remember, you are creating a resilient child who builds trust with new people and new places setting the foundations that will carry them through the rest of their lives.
You set the tone
As the grown up in their lives, your child will feed off your energy for everything. It is so important that you are mindful of the words you are using to them, and around them, If you want them to be excited to try something new; they have to believe that you're on board with it too.
Let's put that into context, your child needs blood work, you're getting ready for it and you tell your child "well it's going to hurt, but you'll be fine" while you're also nervous... your child is likely not going to cooperate. Now, I'm not asking you to lie to your child, we want to build trust, so instead, with confidence, say "The nurse is going to do a little poke right here, (show them on their arm) and it's going to feel like a little pinch, and then after it's done, you will get a bandaid and a sticker and the pinch feeling will be totally gone. I'll be right here with you the whole time!
The reframe: tell the truth, give them something to look forward too, let them know that you're here to help, and reinforce that it's going to be okay with realistic time frames.
The same thing goes for a new class, your body language and tone of voice means everything. You might know that your child doesn't transition well yet, you might be nervous about how drop off is going to go, you might have heightened emotions at drop off when your child starts crying - but it's up to you to hold your calmness and positivity so that your child can feed off of that energy and benefit from it. That why saying something along the lines of "It's scary to be somewhere new, isn't it" is going to be more powerful that "stop crying." The first one shows that you hear them, you're grounded in your energy, and gives them hope that it's going to get better where as the second one typically comes from frustration which will reflect back to your child.
Avoid asking if they're scared. That shows they have something they should be fearful of. Instead, wait until they show fear or anxiety and acknowledge their fears by saying"It's scary when we are in new places" and then reinforce the end result: "after you play, I will come get you"
Comment below what has worked to help your child more through new transitions!