The P.N.E. is over. Labour Day weekend is all that stands between summer indolence and the new leaves to be turned over by students beginning on Tuesday, the first day of school.
It’s a time of unease, for students and parents. Will it be a better year?
Will last year’s big worry repeat itself, or be forgotten amidst new successes?
What teacher(s) will she get? I hope it’s not Mr. McGillicuddy – he’s demanding and harsh… but maybe that’s what she needs.
I just want her to be happy at school. How can I best help her return to school successfully?
If I appear confident and reassuring, it will help. I’ll minimize my advice and help her plan her own return to school, from when to get up to what to wear; I’ll allow her to take on the responsibility.
If my only stated expectation is that she enjoys herself (“have fun…”) and if I accept that she’s going to school for herself not for me, it will help.
Latch key situation or not, I will be home when she returns after her first day.
I’ll be sure to be busily distracted by some low-key, calm activity that can be easily interrupted and postponed. I’ll wait for her to initiate the post mortem of her day, rather than pouncing on her for a recounting before she can put down her backpack.
If she comes home happy, I’ll share it with her. I’ll listen and empathize and focus on her happiness, asking clarifying questions; letting her talk rather than giving advice or alluding to my own past school experiences. I’ll act as if her good day is not a surprise; that’s just how good school is and should be. I’ll calmly return to what I was doing, leaving her to bask in her happy day.
If she comes home in tears, with stories of mistreatment by teacher or peers, my first response will be empathy not anger. Feelings aren’t facts, so I’ll listen. I’ll validate her despair without taking a side. It will likely be a disappointment or hurt rather than a major incident – unless I make it one with my response. I’ll ask her what she might do to make it better. I won’t join her anger. I’ll reassure her.
I’ll give her time; and space. I’ll watch and listen. Flurries of text messages or emails mean overt misunderstanding or conflict. If I fan this flame of melodrama, it definitely won’t help her or me.
If there is no peer contact, it likely means someone clumsily or accidentally hurt her feelings.
Either way, I’ll reassure her at every relapse, empathizing, minimizing, distracting if possible.
I’ll matter of factly remove rash solutions; things like, “I’m never going back to that school again!” I’ll avoid expressing outrage with the school, teacher, or peer, knowing that it’s probably a misunderstanding born of nervous anticipation.
If it’s clear that something threatening or inappropriate has happened, I’ll listen and empathize first and then without her knowing, I’ll go to the school; that day, with a view to describing her unhappiness, gathering information and working with the school to help my child solve the problem. I’ll assume the school wants to help. I’ll be calm but resolved, and I won’t criticize students or teachers.
The best possible outcome would be that my child faces and solves the problem herself. The next best outcome is that the problem is resolved without my child knowing that it was fixed for her. The worst and most ominous outcome is that mommy or daddy stomp into the school and forces the school to fix the problem.
But mercifully, none of this will likely happen. First days of school are usually short, great days. For her sake, I’ll try to remain the calm, empathetic, reassuring adult.
I won’t let on that I’m as nervous for her as she is for herself.