Ep.73 – Bev Bailey & Rachel Cram – Tips For Starting School
- How to get your kids excited for school
- The trial of transitions and why transitions make starting school tiring for our kids (and for us)
- Why it's important to say a good good-bye
Starting school can be an exciting time and a scary time for children and for parents. With 12 years of education ahead, starting school with enthusiasm and energy is the launch we want for our little ones.
This week on family360, host Rachel Cram and Wind & Tide Educator Bev Bailey team up to talk about practical tips for helping kids start school. Join us!
Bev Bailey & Rachel CramEarly Childhood educator Bev Bailey teams up with family360 host Rachel Cram for this episode. Bev is a mom to 3 children, and a beloved teacher for 15 years in the Wind and Tide early education community. Together, Bev and Rachel have helped thousands of children and families navigate the start of school.
Starting school is a major milestone and marks a significant change and stage in a child’s development, which can understandably elicit some uncertainty, heel digging, and tears for the child AND for parents. Preparing a child for starting school can greatly reduce the separation anxiety they may feel and in this episode, we’re sharing practical tips for familiarizing children with their new environment.
Ep.73 – Bev Bailey & Rachel Cram – Tips For Starting School
Rachel Cram – Well, listeners I want to introduce you to one of my wonderful friends, Bev Bailey. Want to say hello to people?
Bev Bailey – Hi, everyone.
Rachel Cram – We’ve known each other for a long, long time.
Bev Bailey – Long time. 15 years. Rachel.
RC – Yeah, and for most of those years, maybe all of them you’ve worked at Wind and Tide.
BB – All of them.
RC – You were also my kid’s preschool teacher, my three youngest.
BB – Yes.
RC – And they loved you. So anyways, this is going to be a bit of a different episode because I’m usually interviewing someone, but we’re going to kind of talk this through together.
BB – Sure.
RC – Ok, so, I have not actually taught in the classroom for quite a few years and I know this topic well, but you are much more hands on with it right now. You are one of our fabulous leaders in our child care program. You’ve also taught preschool, and so you’ve had hundreds, thousands of kids come through your doors.
BB – Yes, many, many children come in. Some are really excited. Some of them are a little apprehensive, but they all get there in the end.
RC – They do. So we want to talk about how that can happen and just give some really practical tips.
BB – Okay.
RC – I’m thinking we will divide our tips into 2 sections. Before school starts; so tips for helping your child prepare for separating from you before you actually drop them off at school, and then tips for how to handle the actual drop off. Does that work for you Bev?
BB – Yeah, we should just chat away.
RC – Ok. We will. You know me though, I love to have a structure and a framework. Your more go with the flow. So, let’s start talking, we’re going figure it out as we go.
BB – Yeah, I think that’s better.
RC – Ok, we’ll still begin with ‘before school starts,’ I planned it that way because then our separation tips will flow in chronological.
BB – I think you did good.
RC – Okay. Good. Thank you.
BB – I think you did good.
RC – Okay. So here we go. It’s the weeks before your child is going to go to a new preschool, or childcare or elementary school and anticipation is in the air. Anticipation is the expectation or prediction of what is to come. It’s a build of excitement and it can also be a build of fear or concern, and they actually both feel similar in your body, excitement, and fear.
BB – Exactly.
RC – Anticipation comes with emotions for everyone. So in light of this, Bev, what could parents keep in mind in the lead up time before a new school experience starts?
BB – So before school starts, the parents get excited but does the child actually know where they’re going? It’s like, we’re saying schools like this and schools like that. But if they haven’t actually gone to school, what is it? It’s almost like taking them to a stranger’s house, dropping them off and saying, I’ll see you back in a little bit.
RC – And the strangest house is filled with lots of other strangers who don’t know each other either.
BB – And they don’t know each other. “Oh, well my mom said, it’s supposed to be exciting here, but who are these people?”
And then it just sets in. Tears set in, or, “Oh, I’m comfortable, I’m just going to go and dive in.”
RC – Which is amazing any kids are comfortable, honestly, and most of them are, which is remarkable.
BB – A lot of them are. But there’s always a few that are like, “Mmm, I’m not sure about this place yet.”
RC – Yeah, and understandably so. So, it’s helpful to recognize 1/ they’re entering a space they know so little about, and appreciate how tricky that is. How is that for you even tricky for you, to go into an unknown environment full of people you don’t know, but 2/ they also have to transition to the space. They have to leave one very known space to go into this new space that they know nothing about. That requires a transition. Transitions, by definition are, “the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.” So before school starts, think about how your family navigates transitions because really starting school is one of the hugest transitions a child will do.
BB – It is.
RC – And transitions are hard for any child. Well, they’re hard for any person because it’s a different kind of energy that we have to bring to our body. And by the time you get to the school you have done so many transitions in that day. You’ve gotten up in the morning, you’ve gotten dressed, you’ve had breakfast, you’ve gotten into the car, and unless you’re vigilant lots of other little steps.
BB – Lots of other little steps. And then we’re adding on quite a few transitions as well as soon as they get there. It’s dropping off, it’s saying goodbye, it’s circle time, it’s playtime. I need to go to the bathroom. There’s so many different transitions that happen, for a child, it can be overwhelming. It can just be overwhelming.
RC – And so crying is often what can happen. A child often cries because they don’t have the vocabulary to express what they’re feeling. That’s why we often cry as adults, too. You just can’t put into words the immensity of your feelings. And so it comes out in tears. And so it doesn’t necessarily mean a child can’t do it. They just have to have their tears. For all of us, tears are often a necessary part of a transition process and they help to get us healthily from one state of being, in this case, at home with my parent, to the next state of being, at school with a teacher.
BB – Oh, absolutely. They cry because they just don’t have the words to say and they’re missing that parent that dropped them off. So it’s a big step. How is it fun without my mom, without my dad, without my siblings? This is a little bit different. So, it is getting them into a routine and just getting them comfortable with even just a small part of that day.
RC – And that’s why many childcare programs and schools will have what’s called a gradual entry program, or a slow start program, where a new child comes for a small amount of time. This is really important because you don’t start with a long separation time right off the start.
BB – I wouldn’t do a whole day, but an hour or two is more than enough for the first day for them to start to adjust. And that’s where gradual entry comes in.
RC – Okay. So under section one for before school starts, here are four steps we’ve got to suggest for starting that school transition. The first one is, be excited for your child.
Now we actually have an episode coming up. Bev, you don’t know about this, yet. But I just did the interview with Dr. Tina Payne Bryson yesterday, and it’s going to come up in a few episodes from now. And she talks about parents being ‘meaning makers’ for their kids. And I’m not going to steal the thunder on that now. But the idea is, as parents, you want to set the emotional climate for your child as they come towards school.
And I think often as parents, we do feel apprehension around our child starting school. If it’s preschool or child care, does my child have to go? And there can be pressure from other family members on does your child have to go? Why have you chosen to put your child in school, especially if it’s preschool, because by law at least, children are not required to be in school until the age of 5 or 6 years.
There are a whole range of opinions on whether or not children should go to preschool or childcare if there is a loving parent who could be taking care of them at home during that time, and we are not going to address that here.
BB – And I get that.
RC – Yep, me too. But clearly, you and I Bev, see the value of early childhood education in a childcare setting because that’s what we do.
BB – Absolutely.
RC – And there are a myriad of reasons why parents choose childcare including parents working full or part time – parents wanting a break to refuel themselves, go out for coffee with a friend, get in some valuable exercise time, spend time with younger children, get household tasks done. Plus appreciation of the value of excellent, loving teachers who will bring different experiences to children in a social setting with endless opportunities to play and learn.
So, parents are often coming to the start of school with mixed feelings of apprehension and anticipation and there’s a variety of reasons why parents do feel that way. But if you have decided that it’s a fact that your child needs to go to school, then you want to approach your child’s starting school, to use the phrase as a matter of fact. And have that kind of demeanor in yourself. This is what’s happening and approach it with calmness and curiosity and excitement for what your child’s about to experience.
BB – And also, bringing the child into that excitement. Let’s go and get a backpack for school and let’s go and get a lunch kit for school. Involving them so that they are a part of that. They get to choose, “Oh, I’m going to wear this on the first day of school. What toy am I going to bring today? Am I going to bring a little stuffy? What am I going to bring that’s going to remind me of my home?”
RC – Like a bridge item. That’s what we call a bridge item.
BB – That’s a great thing to bring. So that child is bringing that item in that represents his home, his life. So I feel that’s important.
RC – Yeah. Okay. So step one, feel excited for your child.
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RC – Ok so step two in preparing your child is, explain the routines and experiences they can expect when school starts. You don’t need to explain in detail because too many details are overwhelming. But you maybe can explain, “When we get to the school, remember, you’re going to have Teacher Bev and she’s going to be there to meet you at the door, and you’re going to have a snack time. Do you remember what we’ve got in your snack? You’ve got the apple that we cut up. Remember, we went there for your visit you saw there was Lego there or you saw there was Play-Doh there and how much you loved that Play-Doh.”
So just reminding them about some of the routines that they can expect as they go through their day, and school experiences you think they’ll enjoy.
BB – Yes. And don’t make promises that you can’t keep, like, they’re going to love school or they’re going to make many friends because we don’t know that yet. We don’t know what that first day or second day is going to be like. So just maybe do things a little bit more concrete that you know is going to happen. Like you’re going to love going to the playground. The playground is going to be there. You’re going to love your lunch because he helped to pack his lunch. So those things, I think are just a little bit more concrete than saying you’re going to make a friend. We don’t know that. So I think just keeping it real.
RC – Yeah. In most schools, teachers will really give a good outline of what they will experience during the day. At our schools, the teachers will start the day telling the kids, here’s what we call the day in a row. Here’s how it’s going to fold. Do you want to explain that?
BB – So, we start with a day in a row. And it’s pic symbols. So a pic symbol tells us what we’re doing. So you see a stop sign, you know, that means to stop. You see a traffic light, it tells you to go or stop or precaution. So those pick symbols literally tell us in picture form what’s next, what’s going to happen?
So we have a pic sign that says when you arrive, you’re going to put your bag and your jacket on this hook. Then it tells you next you’re going to go to the bathroom and you’re going to wash your hands. Then it tells you next that you’re going to go and you’re going to have a playtime. And oh, after playtime we clean up and there’s circle time.
As you go through that transition, you get the child to remove that pic symbol so they get to see what’s next. Oh, so we’ve already washed our hands. Now what do we get to do? And you show the child the pic symbol. Oh, that’s right. Now it’s time to clean up. What’s going to happen after cleanup? Oh, we’re going to have our circle.
Kids are very visual learners. So if you have those pic symbols and they actually get to remove them one at a time, then they know what’s next. It’s a great way to explain without words what’s happening in the classroom.
RC – Picture symbols actually work really well at home as well, for helping children through the routines and the transitions of their day at home. So often, even with adults, what causes worry or tension is not knowing what’s happening, or what to expect, or what’s expected of us. And having a displayed dayplan that everyone knows about is so helpful and so calming.
We actually have an episode with someone who created a family picture system called Easy Daysies, that’s all about this. She won awards for it on The Dragon’s Den. Roy, what’s her?…Elaine Comeau.
What episode is that?
Roy Salmond – Hang on. Episode 48
RC – Yeah. Elaine had a stroke and anyways, it’s a good story she shares about that in her episode and a great product for helping to remember and navigate our many daily transitions.
But back to our child who is starting school. If you picture your child preparing to go into this home with a stranger and the rest of the home filled with other strangers who don’t know each other, this is the type of calm that a teacher starts to bring to the setting so that a child can start to feel settled in that new environment and be able to anticipate, what’s happening.
So, quick recap, be a meaning maker for your child, share excitement with them in concrete ways. Explain the routines and experiences they can anticipate and then a third tip for before school starts is, see if you can find a friend, find somebody in their neighborhood or on their street even, that they can start to connect up with so that it stops being strangers that they’re going with. How do you do that as a teacher?
BB – So once the child is a little bit more comfortable, I like to see who the child is engaging with. And then once I see that, I go over to the parent at pick up time and I say, “It would be really good if you could do a playdate because then they kind of have a friend not just in school, but out of school. And it just adds to that settling; that there’s somebody there that they know that they play well with.
Doesn’t have to be a, you know, like I think a lot of parents think, I’m going to have to clean my house. I’m going to have to have them come over.
RC – Don’t need to do that.
BB – Don’t need to do any of that.
RC – In fact, if you clean your house before you have other people over, there’s a really good chance you’ll never get invited back because people are like, “No, the bar is too high.”
BB – It’s too high. So I’ve always said to parents, “If you’re uncomfortable in the home setting, meet at a park, pack a lunch, pack a snack. Then you don’t have as a parent, you don’t have that anxiety of, my goodness, my house has to be a certain way. It doesn’t have to be. But if you do have that, meet at a park so that you can get that sense of comfortableness with that other parent as well.
RC – Yeah. Well, and it’s also wonderful for your child to see you being comfortable with the parent of one of their friends in their class, because it lets them know that the world that you’re inhabiting is also a part of the world that they’re now inhabiting. That they’re not out there on their own knowing people that you know nothing about, but that you’re connected in with those people as well, because that makes school and new friendships feel like an extension of their home.
BB – It is an extension because we don’t raise kids on our own. We have a village and those other families, they have a connection not just only for the child, but for those parents, because sometimes you feel like you’re going through life as a parent on your own. You need someone to kind of just stand beside you and say, “You know what, my child is going through the same thing.”
And then you’ve got that other parent who’s already walked that path to say, “It’s okay. Your child’s going to be fine.”
It brings another level of comfort for that parent.
RC – And I know with my kids, I’ve found that getting to know the parents of my kid’s friends has been such a comfort and its community building, or village building like your saying Bev. I know that often the friends that I’m closest with in certain periods of my life are the parents of my kid’s friends because that’s who I’m seeing regularly at drop offs, at pick ups, and you often continue with those families for years. So it’s a worthwhile investment of time and energy to get to know the parents of your child’s friends.
BB – It is. My son started at preschool and just graduated from high school and graduated with a child that was in kindergarten and they’ve been friends forever. Those relationships, even though they may seem insignificant at the beginning, they last for so long.
RC – Well, and your journey through some very significant years together.
BB – Absolutely.
RC – Okay. So Bev, let’s review the tips that we’ve given so far. So, 1/ feel excited for your child. 2/ Explain the routines and experiences that they can expect. 3/ set up playdates before the school year starts.
And #4/ This is the last one in this section. We were thinking of how families can normalize the school experience before their child starts. So we had a few suggestions on that.
BB – Yup. That’s right.
RC – The first one that I have is that you could role play school with them at home. Now, sometimes kids just do this absolutely naturally. Play is a wonderful way of settling our souls.
That’s true for all of us. But we can also invite our kids to play school with us. Like get the stuffies out for example and you can role play the kinds of routines they might experience with meeting the teacher at the door and leaving you and going to snack time. So role playing is a really helpful tip.
BB – Absolutely. And also, to add to that, reading them books about school. There’s so many great books that highlight all the things that happened at school. And it doesn’t matter where you go to school, “Oh, there’s going to be snack time, there’s going to be circle time and there’s going to be time to do some art.”
It just lets the kids know some of the things that happen, “Oh, I see that happens at my school.”
RC – So, role-playing, reading books. Another normalizing activity you can do with your child to help them settle into school is, spend some time as a family hanging out at the school playground beyond school hours. And that’s a wonderful way to bring yourself into their school environment, in a way where they can just do what they want to do. You can sit and chat with other parents if they’re around and just get them really familiar with that space.
BB – Yeah, and that’s again where the open house or school orientation comes in as well. Most schools will have an orientation where you get to meet the teacher and it’s a great opportunity for the parent and the child to come and spend at least an hour getting to see the layout of the classroom, meeting the other families. It’s also a great opportunity to take a picture with the teacher.
RC – Yes. So good. Why do you do that?
BB – Why we do that is we want that child to be reminded, “You’re going to be in Teacher Bev’s class. This is what Teacher Bev looks like.”
And find a special place for that picture. Put it on the fridge where that child is going to be able to see it and connect with that teacher, so he’s got that reminder that, “My teacher is really excited that I’m going to be in her class.”
RC – And that’s what you can keep feeding into as you look at the picture on the fridge, saying, “Do you remember how Teacher Bev was so excited to have that picture taken with you? I bet she can’t wait for the year to start so that you can be in her class. She’s probably really looking forward to getting to know you.”
So then your child is seeing that you have respect for their teacher, you have trust in their teacher, and what you are doing is acting as a bridge between the child and the teacher, transferring that trust onto the teacher with those kinds of conversations.
BB – Absolutely.
RC – And then you keep being that sturdy, confident, ‘we’ve got this’ bridge as you move into actually dropping your child off at school. Which leads us into the second part of this conversation. Tips for how you handle drop-off.
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RC – Now, before we go into the second part of this about how to handle the actual drop-off experience, often as parents if we haven’t had a fantastic school experience ourselves growing up. We can come into this with some apprehension.
BB – Absolutely.
RC – If we’re concerned, our child might have problems separating and really miss us. If we’re concerned that our child might find school difficult, if we’re concerned they might be bullied at school, if any of those have been our own experience, it’s incredible how a child can pick up on those kinds of feelings from us. We don’t want to transfer that onto our child’s own unique experience of school. We want to set them up for a wonderful start.
BB – Yes. If I can sense that in a parent I will often have a meeting with that parent without the child present, and we’ll talk about those things. If they’re concerned about bullying, if they’re concerned about friendships. I always want the parents who are leaving their children in my care to feel absolutely comfortable that if there was a situation, I would call them.
RC – And if you’re worried, parents can ask for this conversation with a teacher. I think sometimes we feel awkward doing that, but if you’re worried, this is part of building that school/home trust.
BB – Yeah. Nothing is too big or too small of a question to ask. The biggest thing is building that trust.
RC – And for parents coming in, you can take that initiative as well. Letting the teacher know that you want to have a trusting relationship with them and that you want to know them. Because sometimes at the beginning of a school year, in the inevitable busyness of a teacher welcoming in all the new children and parents, if you’re coming in a little nervous yourself, you can wonder if the teachers are going to express the kind of love and care that you’re sharing right now because they seem so busy. But my experience is, especially teachers that work with children in the younger years, they have incredible hearts for children. You would not be in this role if you didn’t. And so giving the teacher the benefit of the doubt that they will love your child so well and spending that time getting to know the teacher is so helpful.
BB – And I can understand from a parent’s point of view, when they come in, they’re like, “My goodness, how is that teacher going to be able to tell me something about my child? But you’re always observing. It’s almost like teachers have eyes at the back of their head.
RC – You do
BB – They can always see what’s going on. You’re actually observing the children who are in your care and finding out special little tidbits about each and every one of them, because they’re all so different.
So as a parent, asking the teacher, what did Johnny do today? Did he eat his lunch? How was his rest time? What was his mood when he woke up? Did he play with anybody? I think it’s good for parents to ask those questions because they get to know what that child’s day would look like.
The parent wants to be able to go home and say, “Oh, so Teacher Bev said today you played with the animals.”
“Oh yeah. I did play with those.”
Well, she said that you had fun. Did you have fun?”
“Yes, I had fun.”
That again, is building trust. That your words that you were saying are real.
RC – Yeah, and that you’re not just fabricating something. You know a bit about their day because you are in actually conversation and connection with their teacher.
BB – Yeah.
RC – So much to think about. So, we want to be aware of our own biases towards school. We’re wanting our child to be picking up on our calm and confidence and connection with their teacher, but I remember wondering, “What are the exact expectations around drop off time? I wanted to do it right. That’s kind of part of my mentality. So how do you do drop-off? Should you stay or should you go? Should I stay or should I go?
Should a parent stay? How do you know what a teacher is wanting? And how do you know what’s best for your child? And how do you do what is best for the teacher and for the child?
BB – So the first few days are set up with gradual entry and that’s in preschool and it’s also in childcare and in kindergarten so everybody gets to do a gradual entry maybe an hour or two of that day.
RC – Okay. So they’re coming for a shorter amount of time.
BB – So it’s just for a short amount of time.
RC – And during that gradual entry time, which usually happens over the first few classes of the year, do parents usually try to leave?
BB – They usually try and leave.
RC – And then they’re only leaving for a shorter amount of time.
BB – Yes.
RC – So if the child is sad and they are having a hard time, the parents are only going to be gone for about an hour.
BB – Yeah.
RC – Now, say a parent doesn’t want to leave. Perhaps their child is upset or perhaps they themselves just don’t feel ready to leave. What could their ‘staying’ look like so that they are still moving towards a time when they can go?
BB – I feel like for the parent staying in the classroom, we’re missing that time for the child to bond with the teacher. That’s really important. If I do have a parent who seems to be a little bit apprehensive leaving their child, maybe it’s their first child, I would have a chair set up in the classroom where they’re going to get out a book, and even if the child is coming up to them, they’re just going to, “Oh, go over to Teacher Bev.”
So that’s how I’ve done it.
RC – Yeah, and there’s a reason we do it that way. Understandably, many parents might feel, “Well, if I’m going to stay, I might as well be a help to the teacher and with the other kids.”
And there is definitely a wonderful time for that, but usually, teachers like to get the children settled into the class and into the school routines before bringing in parent helpers. During the first days of school, it’s confusing for children if parents are coming and going at different times and seem randomly involved in taking care of them.
So, that gradul entry time is important for helping children and parents establish a clear drop-off routine.
BB – Yeah
RC – And then what?
BB – And then once that gradual entry is done and you can see if your child is settled because the teacher would be telling you that, then I think it’s time to say goodbye.
RC – So, what if you’ve been through those gradual entry days. You sat reading the book. Your teacher feels your child is settled enough for you to leave, and you need to leave because you need to work, or take care of your other kids, or whatever it is. What if you bring your child to the classroom and your child’s saying, “Don’t go, don’t go. I don’t want you to leave. Stay.” They might even be having a bit or a lot of a meltdown. What can a parent expect? Because I know as a teacher, you’re not going to go grab a child off of a parent and pull them off.
BB – You’re not.
RC – That’s not good for anyone.
BB – You’re not going to, you’re not going to do that, but you’re going to make those expectations really clear. So, “Mommy, you’re going to stay with us for the first 15 minutes. So as soon as we’re going to have snack, it’s going to be time for you to go.”
Then the parent is talking to the child, “Well, as soon as you have snack, it’s going to be time to go.”
That child can be resisting and not really wanting to go with Teacher Bev today. But that handoff is really important.
RC – Yeah. This is where as a parent you want to appear, even if your not really feeling it all, calm, confident and full of trust for the teacher.
BB – Yeah, of course, the child is upset they’re fight or flight mode,
what I often do is ask, “Could you bring something from home that that child would,”
RC – Hold on to during that time.
BB – hold on to during that time. It can be a stuffy. Sometimes it’s a toy. Sometimes it’s a picture of the family, something that comforts them.
RC – Sometimes parents leave their sweater. Something that smells of them.
BB – Yes. I’ve seen a sweater. I’ve seen a necklace. So many different things.
RC – In sympathy to the parents, because we’ve both been parents dropping off our children, it can be very emotionally intense to be leaving your child crying. You’re feeling for the teacher, but you’re also really feeling for the child. And you just don’t know what to do. You can almost go into a sweat with the overwhelm of that. And you can feel like crying yourself. It’s such an intense experience.
Just to encourage parents to try as much as possible to be confident at that moment. Not doing it with the voice of “Sweetheart, you’re going to be okay. Oh, I know you’re feeling sad.”
But to keep it kind of ‘matter of fact’.
BB- And not prolong the goodbye. “One more kiss, one more hug.” The parent is almost frozen at the door.
Once that separation from the parent occurs and the child starts to settle, I will often phone that parent and say, “Just so that you know, the crying lasted for a few minutes and Johnny’s okay.”
RC – Because this is part of that transition period.
BB – Part of that transition period.
RC – And often for children, so often what makes them cry is the transition. And most of the time, once the parent is gone, the child settles into the classroom and really, really enjoys their day.
BB – They do.
RC – So if you keep going back and forth as a parent or pleading with them or begging with them or giving them one more kiss or one more hug, you’re actually drawing out a very difficult time frame.
BB – Oh, yeah. It just continues. If you drag out that saying goodbye, it’s almost like the child then becomes apprehensive, “Well Mom’s not going. She said it’s a safe place, but she keeps coming back to me.”
When it comes to saying goodbye, it’s, “Goodbye and I’m going to see you later at pick up time,” and then just going.
Again, that’s where those pic symbols come in. So first we’re going to do this, next we’re going to do this and then mom is going to come back. For the parent, it is vital that when the teacher says you need to be back at 12:00, that you’re back at 12:00 because a few minutes before 12, we’re like, “Oh my goodness, I know you must be so excited. Mom is coming back in a few minutes. Let’s get ready.”
RC – Which leads into another tricky transition of leaving school to go home, which some kids also resist and don’t want to do. Often the same kids who did not want to be dropped off are the same kids who don’t want to go home, which can be equally sad and stressful for parents.
BB – Oh, absolutely.
RC – And to try to be compassionate to all of this, because these transitions and tough. Patience and persistence and practice are key!
BB – Yes.
Musical interlude #3
Thanks for listening to our tips for helping kids start school. There are more to come.
Our next episode is called The Crime Of Cautious Living. We’re with 93-year-old poet and professor, and writer Luci Shaw. Luci has over 35 published books, 3 of which she co-authored with her lifelong friend Madeleine l’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle In Time. Luci is also a Mother and a Grand and Great Grandmother to a big and beautiful bouquet of family. In this conversation, Luci addresses the problems associated with living life ‘safe’ and the courage it takes to be a human being. Join us for her marvelously articulated and well-seasoned wisdom.
And now back for the conclusion of my conversation with Bev Baily, and a big ‘don’t do’ that might help you as you navigate the first days of your child starting school.
RC – Ok, here’s another common drop-off question, or situation for your input Bev. A parent and child arrive for drop off and the child, who has been having a hard time saying good-bye so far, gets distracted and starts playing, and the parent is tempted to think, “I’m going to seize this moment and sneak out the door, because then I don’t have to have the chaos of this goodbye.”
Because you see, they’re already playing with the Play-Doh. They’re already talking with their friends. And you think, “Well, I can just leave right now because then I don’t have to tell them I’m going and then I don’t need to upset them.”
What’s your feedback on that?
BB – Don’t do that.
RC – Why not?
BB – Just don’t do that because a child can be engaged in playing, but the minute they stop being engaged and they look around and that parent isn’t there they’re panicked. I didn’t get to say goodbye.
RC – There’s so many layers to this and one of them is that often as parents, we feel so bad for the teacher and for our child having to go through that good-bye grieving period. But it’s a part of the process.
BB – It is a part of the process. And that’s what the teachers are there for.
RC – Yeah, and your teacher might also have some suggestions for some fun, quick, easy, (quick and easy are key) some fun, quick and easy good-bye rituals or routines you can do with your child at the drop off door.
Rituals are a wonderful antidote to transition anxieties. As adults, we naturally do rituals to take us through transitions. Like, I bet for most of us, when we leave for work in the morning, we have a set of rituals we go through that we might not even be aware that we’re doing.
Like, I go out and pull my car up to the front door, put all my stuff that I need for that day into the car. Pop back in to say my good-byes to my family, and then I go. And if I change that up, like if I come back in after I’ve said good-bye for some reason, because I’ve forgotten something, I have to say good-bye again. I can’t just walk out the door and leave. The rituals carry me through the transition so that I don’t need to think about it like it’s fresh and new every morning. It just puts you into a pattern. Because without that, transitions could become exhausting.
So, having a good-bye ritual with your child is helpful because it carries them through the transition and gives them a pattern to perform at drop-off time.
Yeah. So doing a special hug or a special kiss. And if you’ve ever read that book about The Kissing Hand.
RC – Mm hmm. Awesome book.
BB – Giving a little kiss on their hand as the parent leaves. Going to the waving window is another one.
RC – Describe the waving window Bev. This is a little drop-off ritual that we have as teachers with the parents and children in our schools and it works really well.
BB – We have a waving window. Even if a child is a little bit sad or or a lot sad, once they get to the window, it’s calming. They see their parent is waving, they’re blowing them kisses. And then we move away from the window. Again, I might have already spoken to the parent that said, “Could you bring something from home? That little stuffy?”
You hand them that little stuffy and they walk into the class. Those are great things that the kids get excited about doing.
RC – And you can as a parent, let the teachers know this is going to be our routine upon exit. I’m going to do a kiss on each hand and they’re going to hold on to that kiss in their hands for a few moments. Or you can say, Can we use a waving window? Could you just let them be at the window to wave goodbye? And I’m going to do a little dance as I go to the car, just so that the teacher knows that you’ve got a plan in place and can help your child anticipate that plan.
BB – Yeah.
RC – And then I think the last part of that whole drop off routine is just when you do come back to pick up at the end of the day, especially if your child’s been upset, but even if they haven’t, celebrating being back again. Just coming into that pickup, not looking worried and concerned and ready to console, but coming back with a posture of excitement to hear about the day, anticipating that they’ve enjoyed it and reminding them, Hey, I came back.
BB – Oh yeah, we make a big deal of a parent coming back. I’ve often, especially for the first few days, taken pictures of the children engaging in play. With the parent, as well as the child getting down to their level and letting them see those pictures and sharing that experience with their parent. And just again saying to that child, “See, mommies and daddies, grandparents, they always come back. They love you.”
So I just think that that’s a great way to end their first day.
RC – And a great way to start their school experience because you’re setting them up for at least 12 years of an educational process and you want to be creating that village. A community that cares for your child. And that early experience of starting school, it really does set a climate for their future years.
BB – It does, and so we want to make it as positive as possible, and make that experience of being dropped off and picked up in school – that they love school, that they get excited to be a part of our class. And I hope that’s what we do.
RC – So, if you listen to this and you feel like “I’m still feeling unsure,” email your child’s teacher, or phone your child’s teacher, or set up a meeting for the first days of school and have a conversation so that you can express without your child being there, how you’re feeling. And it might take more than one meeting. That’s ok. Teachers are experienced in helping parents walk through the start to school. And it will give you a chance to get to know the person who will be partnering with you in supporting your child. They have joined your village and you’re in this together.
BB – Absolutely. As teachers, we’re ready. We’re ready for those questions. We’re ready for what’s next? What am I going to do with drop off? What am I going to do at pick up? All those questions. There’s nothing that’s either too big or too small. Your teacher is ready to help you walk through that journey.
RC – Okay. Well, Bev, this has been fun talking with you about this. When parents walk their kids to the classroom door, we want them to feel assured that they’ll be ok. “Ok’, for the kids and for the parents. It’s the start of a new stage in a family’s experience and thank you for doing this for me and my children.
BB – And thank you, Rachel, for having me on here.
RC – And we wish you all a wonderful start to school!