Beginning a new school year and moving into new school routines after a holiday break can be unsettling; especially if a child is starting school for the very first time.
Starting school is a major transition in early childhood. How secure a child will feel about being in a new environment such as kinder or school will depend on how secure they feel within themselves.
If a child has a resistance toward, or has a fear of, transitioning into school this does not imply there is something wrong with the child. After all, we can all feel insecure at times when we are facing an unknown new environment. It is important when our children are experiencing transitions such as the start of school that we attend to theirneed to be safe and secure and offer affirmative responses so the child can transition with ease.
Successful transitions into school in a social sense as well as emotionally and intellectually correlate with further progression of achievement throughout the child’s life.[i]
How the home-to-school transition is undertaken can make a vital difference to children.
Research indicates that for some children starting school can cause stressors, such as anxiety, that affect some children’s emotional wellbeing. This, in turn, can affect the child’s long-term social adjustment, which translates to problematic future learning.[ii]
When a child has secure transitions into school they experience enhanced emotional wellbeing and feelings of capability, which in turn will result in fewer difficulties in later schooling.[iii]
So in effect, when there is emotional support available for the child they have a more positive transitional experience from home-to-school.
Supporting children to process the often bigfeelings they encounter as they step into a 'new world' means that we as adults have to be able to handle big emotions ourselves. We have to be able to hold the space for our children to understand and process their feelings.
Often parents themselves also find the separation from their child difficult and adults can unwittingly get caught up in their own needs at such times - rather than attuning to what the child might need.
If you reflect for a moment on your own childhood - you might recall how those early transitions from home to school were for you. Taking time to recollect attunes you more closely to what your child could possibly be experiencing in this change.
Maybe you felt abandoned, or alone?
Perhaps you were not supported to know what to expect from the new situation?
Maybe you found it hard to integrate the many different routines that school life brings?
Or perhaps the energy of home and school were vastly different and you had no way of communicating this?
If so - these same feelings may be present for your child too.
For example if you have a child that gets anxious and troubled by transitions - or upset from being separated from you, it is important to remind yourself that these are very appropriate response to feeling unsafe and insecure. And you can use these experiences to grow as a parent.
Consider this: If our child’s separation anxiety upsets us as parents we can begin to look, to see, and to feel, if we are imbalanced or anxious within ourselves. If so, we can become more aware that we may be projecting our own concerns or our unhealed past onto our child.
One cannot hold the space and process feelings with a child if they are rushed to get to work or emotionally imbalanced due to another issue that is taking the focus away from the present moment needs of the child.
Of course, we are all under a vast amount of pressure at certain times during our day. Often school drop off is a very stressful time. However if we continue to project our own stress onto a child then the loop of anxiety will remain active. Our children's responses are giving us an opportunity to reflect on our own emotional life and heal any imbalance within ourselves as a first point.
When we can consider our own emotional state we can begin to ask ourselves questions such as:
"Am I calm and focused toward my child's needs, or am I concerned about their ability to cope without me when I am not there to meet their needs?'
“Am I truly present and connected with my child as I drop them off, or am I feeling overwhelmed and in need of a break?”
Children pick up on subtle energies of their environment without any words being expressed.
If the above questions resonate, then we can see how if there is any unhealed energy under the outward reassurance we give to our children - then this will be felt by the child. In essence, the child will not feel the words and energy of security and connection as we try and reassure them, but the underlying energyof disconnection and separation. Children can then become confused because they are hearing one thing (being told one thing) - but feeling another. Even the most upset, anxious or disconnected child will be soothed at times of separation when they are comforted and reassured in a way that addresses their need for safety and security.
In life, we all have to separate from those we love as we grow and transition into the world...
Studies show that children who feel that their parent (caregiver) has a genuine desire to be with them will have smoother transitions. Adults who discuss a plan to reunite after necessary separation make children feel relaxed and prepared for the time away, knowing it is only temporary.
Smooth transitions occur when a special plan is put in place for how long the separation will be, as well as assured reunion, which settles the child’s stress response.[iv]