Bringing your pre-school child to drop off classes, sending your 3-year-old with a carer, or grandparent, or even just coming to classes where your child leaves you behind, swept up in the magic of the class, are all bittersweet experiences. But even the most independent child can balk at the gate, leaving us feeling unsure, concerned or even guilty for pushing our chick out of the nest. At Hive, we have watched this inevitable internal conflict play out for many parents.
This gentle push is a very important step towards skill of independence so essential for success at big school. Children that can’t self-sooth without adult assistance may find big school quite a lonely and challenging place. The anxiety that comes from that, then makes learning difficult and can have an impact on their self-esteem.
This middle ground of more independent or drop off classes at Hive are a great way to develop self-assurance and independence to prepare them for big school. Building this confidence is evidence they are so sure of your love that they have “internalised it”. They literally carry it with them and draw from it when they need to, knowing you will be there at the end of the day.
Here are some beautiful and thoughtful ways we have seen parents use to symbolise carrying your love with them into these new places and spaces so they can do so without building anxiety.
1. Prepare them by talking about what will happen without introducing the idea that they “may not be ok”. This is called “projected identity” and we do this either positively or negatively. In fact, this can become a speech habit for some parents. Whoever we say our children are, generally they will be. So, tell them “You are so grown up, you will go straight into class and pop your bag away.” “You always make friends.” “You are such a good listener” (even if they are not) “You can be the teachers’ helper you are so clever”
Avoid talking to other adults about your fears when your child is listening. They take in more than we think!
2. Try not to bringing treats, sleep or comfort toys that are bulky and will distract them from joining in class. If they are leaving them at home, do this at your house, not at the classroom door.
3. Make sure they get practice at home opening their bag, opening their lunch box, and going to the toilet without help. Send them in easy to put on shoes. Send them with food they like. This all creates a sense of independence for them too. They don’t need their parent to complete these tasks anymore.
4. Encouraging them to put themselves to sleep at night at home, means they already have an ability to self-sooth in a familiar environment. If they struggle with this, they are likely to struggle to recover when upset in an unfamiliar environment. This one can be difficult but persistence is key. Just be patient.
5. Give them a “touch stone” something they can physically touch, that connects them with you. A key or necklace that they are looking after, and they you will come back for. Make sure neither is too valuable. Or draw a little love heart on your wrist and theirs where you feel the pulse. If they miss you, they can touch it and “feel your heart beating”. Alternatively, Spray their wrist with your perfume or after shave so they can smell you.
6. Externalise. If your child tells you, without prompting, that they are worried about starting classes, write what they are worried about on a piece of paper. Put it in your pocket and tell them you will look after their worries for the day.
At Hive, our classes are directed activities so unsettled children are quickly engaged. We always contact you if your child is unable to settle for the day and work with you to develop strategies.
Our school readiness classes also teach identifying and expressing basic emotions appropriately as well as social skills to work cooperatively.