One minute we are birthing them, the next we are buying sensible black shoes and prepping them for big school. Like at any time of transition… the emotion that sits around this event has the potential to blow out as our parenting fears send us a bit wobbly.
“Have I done enough?”
“Are they ready?”
“What even IS ‘ready’?” (so many mixed messages the more we read)
This blog is about setting you up to take the necessary breath to provide yourself and your child what you each need.
I invite you to keep ‘Safe Harbour’ central to your thinking as you navigate through.
With ‘Safe Harbour’ as a mantra you can duck and dive, and ebb and flow, and keep yourself and your youngster afloat and rolling with whatever comes your way through the kindy year.
Let’s start with noticing that being their Safe Harbour is not something new, but something you have been doing all along that you will merely be tweaking and uplevelling to fit with them being out in the world differently than they had been.
By the time they are donning an oversized school uniform you will have spent years with them. Thousands of hours teaching them that you are a safe base that they can go out from and then come back in to. A place they can seek safety and security and a hand in organising their feelings when they feel flooded. You are still all that to them and with some tweaks to the way you structure your time with them they will continue to experience you as that.
So, put aside the ‘school-readiness’ checklists you have Googled and started freaking out about. Tune in to what you are fearful of about them starting school and compassionately notice those thoughts and the ways they are potentially skewing your view of this milestone year. Take some time to reflect and celebrate the strengths that you know you and your child have, all the cool stuff your child CAN do towards getting their needs met and the ways you already know work to support them when they are feeling wobbly.
Think about how you can shape/trim the family schedule so that there is room for you to build in slow time with them to come down from the pace of their day and experience you as the Safe Harbour you want to be. Term #1 and #2 will look on the calendar as though they will fit all manner of after school activities but in reality it is going to make things really tough on everyone unless things are streamlined and as much slow time built in as you can manage.
The one thing we can be sure of is that they will come home with news from school that will catch your breath and send your eyebrows northward. Let them finish. Believe that what they have said is real to them but take a slow breath and sit with them in the emotion of it to help them process it more often than you jump straight onto the phone to ‘sort things out’ with the school or another parent. Fore-warned is fore-armed and if you know your heartstrings are just ARE going to be regularly tugged then you are going to be more able to hear something that they found uncomfortable and support them with it usefully without racing off to rescue them (and yourself) from the feeling. You will also be more likely to remember all the cool tips that you have heard around the traps like providing sensory experiences to help them get their adjustment jitters out and to find it easier to talk with you about how it is to be them.
Safe Harbour parenting is about sending them out into this bigger world and receiving them back home with regular safe spaces built in to hear about their day and without judgement or shame helping them to learn to navigate all the newness that they are encountering.
What can sometimes happen is that as we are gearing up (and fearing up) to send our youngsters off to school we step into the comparison trap and the more fearful we get the more we notice more seemingly ‘ready’ kids that we worry ours don’t stack up against. From there our head goes off in all manner of directions and it influences the way we start to talk to our child. Our patience wanes. We get noticeably short with them over behaviours they have that we worry will set them apart from the others at school (hair sucking, collar-biting, toileting, instruction following, making eye contact etc) We react more quickly than our child is used to. We react with more emotion than our child is used to. Sometimes we even move into shaming them through saying things like “nobody will want to play with you if you do that”.
From there our feeling rattled directly rattles our littlies who don’t know in words what is wrong but can feel they aren’t good enough/ready enough and from there we see an escalation in all the behaviours that emerge when kids feel in flux. Remember every adult in their life has probably already asked them 90 times how they feel about starting school and they are getting all manner of messages from everyone around them that they are about to do something huge. Take time to remember for yourself how that was when you were doing the HSC and you had similar going on. Reflecting like that helps to grow our empathy so we can stay usefully alongside our little blighters as they navigate through.
Special Time is something that is super important to keep up with (or implement) once they start school. Google it if you haven’t heard of it. Essentially it builds in some time where your child (who at school will be spending an inordinate amount of time being dictated to) gets to set a timer to an agree number of minutes where they completely lead the play and enjoy some power and control in a setting where that works (rather than once they get to the dinner table!) There are a bazillion reasons why Special Time is a great thing for every family to intentionally give time to. I will jot it down as a future blog topic.
In essence, keep up with your noticing of strengths you and your child have to head in with. Develop relationship rituals that will serve you well for tuning in to each other ongoingly. Get sensory every chance you get. Foster your relationship with their teacher. Take mindful breaths to keep your fear and overwhelm and temptation to shame them at bay. Know that they will be exhausted and certain behaviours will escalate the more flooded they feel, but you are the one in the relationship with the fully-wired brain and you will manage to hold space for them to grow the myriad of social and academic skills they will be working on. Spend the months between now and when school starts doing things together that will help them build skills like picnics where they open their own lunch box but don’t over-talk it. Do what ever you can to keep your head from running away on you and you will be their Safe Harbour.
Also know that starting school is an enormous topic and way too big to cover in much more depth than this here. Sing out if you would like to sit together and talk specifically about how you plan to move forward…or subscribe to The Parent Huddle to be able to soundingboard your thoughts with me through Messenger. Either way we will work together towards coming up with strategies that are a good fit for your family and leaving you feeling more confidently competent and able to get on with loving parenting. Just sing out. I’m here. Mel