Starting School for the First Time – Survival Guide for Moms

Starting school for the first time - survival guide for moms
This year, all my three kids started school for the first time. The bipolar feelings this event surfaced in me were unpredictable. Because we live in a world of so many options and also because we see so much division and judgment between the people who choose conventional, homeschooling or alternative forms of education, having children starting school can be an emotionally loaded subject.

 

Here are some of the thoughts that went through my mind as I left the school premises after I dropped off my three kids.
1.Guilt
“Why am I doing this? Do they really need to be here? They’re still so small, and this is such a big place. I could start learning how to homeschool, right? Why do I feel the need to contribute to the world outside of my kids? That is so selfish! Maybe I should just stop everything that I am doing and just be with them all the time. I think I saw somebody on Pinterest sharing a non-stick slime recipe. Maybe I could pick up on those arts and crafts things and learn to love them.”
2.Relief
“The house is empty. Wow, it’s silent. It feels foreign but very peaceful. I never realized how loud this space was before. This is nice…”
3.Fear
“What if there is a fire, what if they get poked in the eye with scissors, what if they fall from the monkey bars, what if the teacher doesn’t let them express their emotions, what if the bigger kids get into a fight, and they get hurt in the process, what if they get bullied, what if they get hurt, what if they get ridiculed, what if they have an accident, what if it all happens while I’m not there to protect them…”
4.Hope
“I hope the teacher is kind, I hope they learn how to function in a larger, foreign environment, I hope this transition is ok. I hope that whatever this school experience will be for them, they will not blame me for bringing them here.”
5.Embracing change yet again
“Our summer schedule was finally working, now we need to adjust – earlier bedtime schedule, more advanced preparation, more meal planning, more structure to our days, quicker flow of everything. Why? Why do we always need to do this? I hate change!”

 

Many of these were triggered by how my kids responded to being in school. While we anticipated this event and talked about it for many weeks, completed with how the day will be structured “We go to school, you get to play with your friends, eat a snack, and then I come to pick you up.” Saying goodbye in the morning has sometimes been challenging. When they had a difficult time letting go of me, I had a hard time letting go of them, and I had many doubts.
When they settled easily and smoothly, I found my inner dialogue to be kinder, optimistic and more compassionate.

 

And when the initial storm of adjustment has passed, I sat down with my blank paper trying to make sense of what can be helpful for me during these times:
1. School is not the exclusive form of education.
By choosing to send them to school, I’m not letting go of my children’s education and transfer this entire responsibility to a teacher or a school. They go to school for some hours in a day, and they learn some things there. Then they come home for some more hours, and they learn some more things here. It’s not a division; it’s integration. Teachers work together with parents to support these kids reach their full potential.
I love how Seth Godin says that the kids are in school for 8 hours, then they are home schooled for 8 hours more.
2. Build on trust
We start trusting when we let go of the illusion of control. We can’t control everything in our children’s lives (damn it!). We want to protect them and avoid any feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, unsuitability or doubt in their inherent worth. But as much as these hopes are the base of good parenting, we can’t realistically remove all sources of discomfort from their lives. What we can actually do is give our children the tools of coping with the world when they are disappointed or hurt. And I truly believe it starts as early as toddler years. This is more for us than for them, as most of us have to adjust our own perception of how to support our kids.
Listen without judgment – just listen to what happened without offering solutions or opinions.
Allow expression of emotion – whatever manner our kids choose to express themselves, allow them to do it, especially when it is not graceful. Let them cry, complain, rage, and be angry so they can feel their feelings in the safe environment of their home.
Provide questions so the kids can find the answers themselves – we can say things like “what do you say to yourself when this happens?” or “how does that make you feel?” or “what do you want to do?” are all very helpful hints that will make our kids think the solution for themselves.
3. Their journey is unique to them
We can’t predict what will happen in our lives or our children’s lives. We can hope for smoothness or the absence of negative events. But our job is not to move around consumed by identifying and removing all the dangers from their path. Instead, we should offer them the resources to see and handle the risks themselves, learning from the process and hopefully embracing growth.
Whatever they will go through in life is their own journey and starting school might be the first time you had to let go of the kids. It’s so hard. For every single mother, this event will trigger different and transformational thoughts and emotions.

 

So if you see a mom that looks lost outside the school, ask her to join you for tea. If you feel lost after you dropped off your kids, call a friend and go and talk about your fears and your hopes. But mostly, take this very uncomfortable time of having to let go of your baby and turn it into gratitude – there are excellent teachers, safe environments, an opportunity for your child to start receiving another form of education that will help them grow and develop. They will have friends, laugh, cry, learn, push boundaries and move away from you and start building their own life and persona. And it’s hard. But you can do hard things. There is also beauty in this process. You’ve got this!

Kelli Tungay

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