If you take one clock in an antique clock store and set it, all the other clocks will attune to it; they will beat with the same rhythm as that first clock's "drum". The same is true with children. They attune to the beat of your drum. If you are feeling anxiety about your child starting school, they will most definitely pick up on it.
School transitions can bring up a myriad of emotions. Some parents will experience relief that the care taking isn't 100% up to them anymore. Others will feel anxious and sad to have their child away from home. Some parents may be nervous that they couldn't get their child into the school they preferred, or with the teacher they liked. Some may be stressed by the new schedule, or the list of requirements the school wants met.
It's normal for parents to have strong feelings about this transition. Processing those feelings is important, but do not process those feelings while your child is present. You do not want your child to attune to your feelings about school entrance.
If you're anxious or worried, you don't want them to pick up on that. If you're relieved or even excited, you really don't want them to pick up on that. And I don't recommend acting exited in an attempt to get them excited either, because if they aren't excited, your excitement will create a weird mixed message that can leave your child confused and more at risk of separation issues.
When a child enters school, I recommend two rituals. One for the primary caregiver(s) and another one for the child. If parenthood has been hard, and you sacrificed and stayed home and are now feeling excited and relieved the child is now in school, there's nothing wrong with that.
Do a ritual that is celebratory in nature. Honor whatever feelings may be coming up for you. Feel them, name them, give them space and let them be seen and recognized so that you can release them.
If you loved every minute of being home with your child, and are grieving them going to school as a loss, do the same thing. Give yourself space to mourn. Name whatever feelings you are having. You could be angry at society for having school start so young. You could be sad that this is your last or only child and it all seemed to go by so fast.
School transition can be especially hard because it is common for several emotions to arise, and these emotions conflict with one another. You're excited for and proud of your child, but also sad and mournful. Conflicting emotions are actually much more stressful to experience than one single emotion, even if that single emotion is a very negative one. The conflict is exhausting.
As an adult, create your own ritual. journaling is great. Writing about your hopes for you child, as well as your hopes for the space that opens up now that their time is occupied. The more senses you can incorporate in your ritual, the more powerful it will be. Make a special meal just for you, to remind yourself that you are, in fact a whole person, separate and apart from your child.
After you have spent some time processing your own feelings and completing your own ritual, you will be much more prepared to assist your small child in creating a meaningful ritual to commemorate their transition.
Some parents think that going to the school and touring, reading the paperwork together, etc. is ritual enough. But I would argue, that that is not ritual at all.
Care is taken in ritual to signify that something special is occurring. Touring can be done and paperwork can be completed without there being a feeling like anything out of the ordinary is happening. Touring and paperwork is just part of the to do list in starting school.
Letting your child pick a favorite meal, serving it on a special plate and designating a special time to do this all help the child to absorb and prepare for this transition. After the meal, the family can engage in creating "transitional" objects. Small decorated rocks you can each carry in your pocket that first day, hand made bracelets each person can wear.
If your child is displaying any worry or anxiety, you can create a phrase they can say as they fiddle with their bracelet. Maybe one knot or bead for every word of the phrase. Research shows that when children feel that they have some control over the situation they are facing, their anxiety decreases.
Control over something even as small as a bracelet or rock gives them a sense of composure and a feeling of stability, for both you and your child.
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