First Day Of School: How To Ease A Parent's Anxieties
Will My Child Be Okay?
I totally get it. Yesterday my daughter started Kindergarten and I became a walking pile of nerves. I've been a teacher for the last 13 years, but even my teacher brain couldn't sort out my emotions. I tried not to show it, but I knew my brain was on overload when I dashed out the door without her school supplies, or when I met a few parents but couldn't remember their names a few seconds later. My brain couldn't process anymore information. Worrying about my daughter's first day had taken the lead over any other thoughts. Yesterday all my worries were winning the race.
It is normal for parents to worry about their children. Many questions race through your mind and you remember, and even imagine, all the trials and tribulations that occur in school. Will other children be nice? Are there bullies in her class? Will she feel confident? Will she be safe? Does she have a skilled teacher? Will she be okay? These type of questions are normal and probably even a little healthy to think about. It means you care and are invested in your child's well-being. The trick is knowing how to balance these complex emotions so that your child does not internalize your anxieties.
Remember, You Are Not Alone- All parents worry about their children. Recognizing and validating your emotions will ease any unnecessary stress. Trying to avoid your feelings will only create more anxiety and heighten your level of stress. Breath. Relax. You are not alone.
Talk To Other Parents- Start networking with other classroom parents. Believe me, 9 out of 10 parents are going through the same emotions. By talking to other adults you begin to open the lines of communication. Share your concerns and laugh about the day's events. Moments of adult conversation will release a world full of anxious thoughts. Try it. You'll be amazed at how good it feels to just say "hi" to another parent.
Give Yourself More Time- Try to start your day five minutes earlier. Try to be the first one in your family to begin the day. I know it is not always easy, kids wake-up when they want to, but giving yourself some alone time in the morning will help you breathe better throughout the day. During these few extra minutes make some coffee, read a page from your favorite book, listen to some groovy music, check your emails, etc. Do things that make you feel happy and enjoy the beginning to a beautiful day.
Prepare The Night Before- Nothing creates more stress than a hectic morning. Try preparing your child's lunch or snack the night before. Get everyone's clothes ready, even yours. Pack your child's backpack. Know where you put your keys. Place items near the door. By minimizing the morning rush you minimize stress. By getting to school early you find better parking, get a chance to chat with parents, and it gives your child the opportunity to slowly transition into the day.
Share Concerns With Other Adults, Not Your Children- Voice concerns to other parents, teachers, or the principal. Never share your anxieties with your children. Children will absorb your stress, causing unnecessary worry to be recycled throughout your home. Children should only focus on having fun and finding joy through learning.
Have Fun With Your Children- At the end of the day, find the time to have fun with your children. Ask open-ended questions to generate responses that reach far beyond a yes or no answer. When a parent hears short answers they usually interpret a child's short response as meaning something negative happened at school. This is usually not the case. Ask your child questions like, "What was your favorite part of the day? I see you made a picture, tell me about it?" Asking open-ended questions allows parents to get a better sense of their child's day and makes conversations all the more meaningful. Laugh with your children. Give lots of hugs. Tickle each other. These funny moments release positive energy, helping to ease everyone's anxieties.
Do you, or did you, suffer from parental separation anxiety?
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