As parents, we will do anything to minimize our child’s pain or anxiety. We tend to say things like, “Oh c’mon, it’s not a big deal. You love school!” but that leaves our child feeling alone and misunderstood. Instead, acknowledge that it is okay to feel worried about going back to school, and remind them that their teachers will take care of them and help them feel safe at school. Try saying, “You seem worried. It is okay to feel worried about going back to school. There are so many changes! Let’s write down/ draw a picture of how you are feeling.” Or, “Did you know that your teachers are thinking a lot about how to help the children who might feel worried about going back to school. Should we write your teacher a letter together? We can tell him all about the things you love about school and the things that you are feeling worried about.”
2. Please tell us about your most recent e-Book, “A Parents Handbook for Starting Preschool.” What are some of your tips to help with the transition from “quarantined to confidence!”?
My newest e-Book, “A Parents Handbook for Starting Preschool,” is a passion project. I am a former early childhood educator and the process of separation and school entry has always intrigued me. Parents often feel powerless in the school entry process, but there are so many simple actions they can take to support themselves and their children in feeling confident about starting school. If you are a parent who has been quarantined with limited social contact, sending your children to school this year will feel especially tough. In my new e-book, I break down exactly how to prep your child for school using play. There are tips and information on how to get to know your teacher and school, even if you can’t tour the classroom ahead of time. There are ten things to do if you are expecting a hard drop off, scripts for a successful goodbye, and much more.
Play a lot about saying bye bye. Start with dolls or favorite little play figures like paw patrol pups. Have them “go to school” and say bye to their grownup. Let your child be in charge of the game. Show your child that the grown up always comes back.
In the bath tub, play bye bye with bath toys! Say bye, ducky. See you after school. Cover them in bubbles. Then wipe the bubbles off and reunite! Think of it the same way you played peek a boo with your infant, but this time, instead of peek a boo, say, “Mommy always comes back!” Let them play “go to school” by walking out of the room and closing the door and then reappearing. All of these games reinforce the notion that separation is temporary. It gives your child something to reference when you say goodbye at school.
3. Do you have a motto or mantra that you always reference when it comes to children and family?
“We are still learning.”
Whenever I make a mistake in parenting, I say, “I am still learning about how to be a mom to an 11 year old. I have never done this before.” Or, when the kids mess up at school, “It makes sense that you forgot your gym clothes. You’re still learning about how to be a middle schooler. You’ve never had to bring gym clothes before this year.”
It also works for back to school anxiety: “You are still learning about going to school in Covid. It makes sense that you would feel worried about learning something new. I know you can do it, and it is also okay to feel nervous about learning how to do something new.”
4. Do you have any favorite accessories, supplies or resources for 2021 that you think are helpful for transitioning back to school this year? What would you recommend?
This year I am trying to keep things as simple as possible. There are too many variables involved in BTS 2021 to get fancy. I have all of my tried and true Back to School Favorites in this blog post: https://www.workspaceforchildren.com/blog/back-to-school-roundup
5. What are you and your family most excited about for this Back to School Season?
Truthfully, I am just so grateful that my kids are heading back to school, full-time, in-person. I am so grateful to the teachers, school administrators, custodial staff, and all of the parents who’ve worked so hard to pull this together. Fingers crossed for a healthy, safe back to school season. Hopefully, we will be able to take our annual fall day trip into NYC and hit up the green market in Union Square for warm apple cider and donuts, play in the playground, and do a little shopping! I love NYC in the fall. There’s nothing like it.
6. What are you and your family most anxious or worried about for this Back to School Season?
Keeping schools open and keeping everyone as healthy as possible.
7. Mental health days are important for everyone - how do you implement mental health days for your children?
I am a huge proponent of mental health days for my kids. We started them when my oldest was in Kindergarten (he’s starting high school this year!! eek!) One of our core family values is personal development. Having mental health days supports that value by providing the opportunity for my children to nurture themselves. Taking a break from the rigors of life is valuable and necessary. I want my kids to get to know who they are. One way that I support that is by making sure that I give them the time, space, and opportunity to learn. We think of mental health days as a day to rest, play and learn. Since my children were little, I have been telling them, everyone needs days to rest and play to help their minds and bodies grow. I actually wrote a blog post all about how to implement these days for your family. You can read that post here: https://www.workspaceforchildren.com/blog/mental-health-days-for-kids
(all of Lizzie's adorable kids!)