In the blink of an eye, they’re suddenly big kids, and the first day of school – or preschool or daycare has arrived.
You have mixed emotions, but you’re full power ahead. You’re going to do it. Laces tied, hair in place, favourite stuffie in hand, you’re going to walk them through that door where the whole world awaits them.
And then you think, holy cr*p. What the heck am I doing? Deserting them, leaving them with virtual strangers who promise to care for, teach, feed, and nourish their little minds, without me – the only lifeline they’ve ever known.
I remember those days with all three of my kids, going through these exact emotions – and then some.
It’s your job as parents to empower, teach, and release. And now the nervousness and anxiety sets in and you’re a mess. Your little one isn’t doing much better, and you think, “Now What???”
…I’m about to tell you.
It is nerve-wracking. It’s darn scary for everyone, so here are some basic tips and strategies to help the entire family.
1.Being anxious is ok. It’s normal. Doing anxious will make things worse.
If you’re anxious, talk about it with someone you can confide in. If you can’t, then write it out. The brain will respond the same way, and you’ll feel better getting out your worry.
2. Don’t let them see you sweat. The first week of drop-offs may be your greatest performance to date. Keep it cool, calm, and collected. They need to know you’re good and not nervous – at least not on the outside.
3. Front-load. It’s a term I made up 13 years ago when I opened my practice, and it’s a technique I apply to everything and everyone, not just kids. No one likes surprises, right? When we Front-load, we’re setting the situation up for the best success possible. It’s when we share with the other person, or our kids, the 5 W’s.
What are they? They’re the “what, where, when, who, and why” of the upcoming situation or activity. And just for good measure, I always throw in an H for How, because it’s always good to know the “how” too. Hopefully, you’ve all been front-loading for a week or two now. If not, don’t fret. You can start right away, once you’re done reading this.
Make it a short story about what’s going to happen, and how, to create expectation. That way, you’re not putting your child into a situation he/she knows nothing about and doesn’t know what it looks like visually.
4. Expect the worst. Counter-intuitive, right? Expectation is a great tool. If we’re faced with crying, screaming, leg pulling, neck-strangling, ranting and raving, and we’re already expecting these or similar behaviours. They won’t come as such a surprise, and you’ll have better emotional control to ground yourself than if you hadn’t expected the worst.This is your greatest performance – keeping cool under pressure.
The icing on the cake? If it all goes relatively smoothly, you’re golden, and no need to have been anxious in the first place.
You’ll be fine.
5. Repeat. Consistency is the hardest thing. But if you’re going to be successful at anything, you have to commit to the commitment of sticking to your guns, no-matter-what. If yesterday was a wash-out, that’s OK. Your little ones are going to a new and strange place, without their lifelines. It’s going to take time. Be positive. Be upbeat. Don’t fall off the wagon.
Make drop-off swift, loving, and empowering.
Remind them you’ll be back.
Once you’re gone, then you can express your anxiety the way you need. And don’t be afraid to do that. This is big. Have a plan. Keep busy. If you’re not off to work, go do, or meet a friend. And let it out.
It’s all good.
If your are more than just first-day-jitters, you may want to consider professional support. I’m here if you need.
Good Luck Moms, Dads, and Caregivers.
( But you won’t need it.)
In practice for over 12 years, Lauren Millman is a highly sought-after Toronto Marriage & Relationship Coach and Counsellor, Mental Health Practitioner and Parenting Specialist, and is a member of the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. Lauren is a regular guest contributor on TV’s Rogers Daytime! York Region, and The Mediation Station. She has also been a guest on SiriusXM Radio Canada. Lauren is an international best- selling author, writes regularly for several online publications including Brazenwoman, PinkandBlue North America, and SiriusXM Canada, and was recently featured in the Toronto Star. Lauren continuously gives back to the community. In 2014, Lauren was the Recipient of the International Women In Leadership Award.