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  • Writer's pictureP.E.T. South Africa

Starting big school? How to handle the big emotions

Updated: Jan 9, 2020

Your child's new beginning also signals a transitional phase for you that will require some adjustments. Both of you will need to get used to a new routine, a new environment, and new faces, and this can be an unsettling time.

To summarise, you are both experiencing a fear of the unknown and the best way to face this fear is by preparing yourself and your child for the big change ahead.

Prepare for the big emotions

Make use of this opportunity to teach your child about how changing situations can lead to big emotions. Discuss the emotions you predict you both will be feeling the morning of the first drop-off. The important part is to acknowledge these feelings and to come up with ideas on how you plan to regulate them. Sit and write down the emotions or come up with a creative emotional chart that can help you identify them.

Remember, the first day of school is only the beginning of many changing times to come. If you learn to address the big emotions effectively from this moment, you could be establishing a tradition for how to handle changing times in the future.

Here are some helpful tools, developed by Dr Elmari Botha Verhage a specialist in play therapy, you can use to expand your child's emotional vocabulary and better communicate emotions:

Ease your own fears and expectations

This is also your first day of school. And although your role has changed, it will most likely be an emotional moment when you leave the school parking lot for the first time. You are encouraged to feel all of the feels as you drive off, but before that moment, try your best to keep your emotions balanced. Because your child senses your emotional state; the calmer and more assured you are, the safer and more confident your child will be. Do prepare your child for how you expect to feel on the day and tell them how you plan to address it - set the example - show your child how to effectively regulate big emotions.

Say a proper goodbye

Don't just sneak out. Dropping your child off at school for the first time is a crucial moment in developing your child's trust in relationships. If you leave without saying goodbye, you risk harming this crucial developmental block. Trust and unconditional acceptance are two of the core elements in any relationship and it starts with you. Say a proper goodbye and listen to your child’s emotions. Your child needs to feel understood. Tell them that it is alright to cry, but that you are going to leave now.

Pay attention to your child's behaviour

Be alert and sensitive to cues and clues that your child might have a problem. These are often displayed in your child's behaviour (things they do) or expressed verbally (the things they say). Be careful not to over-interpret - meaning, your child is also allowed a bad day or two. It's the recurring concerns that need to be addressed by using effective listening and response techniques. In Dr Thomas Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training, parents are made aware of the 12 Roadblocks to Helping and provided with more effective ways to help your child:

"You are not a “bad” parent because you use roadblocks. You are doing what you have been taught to do to help others. P.E.T. will provide you with more effective alternatives to begin using instead of these common roadblocks." - Dr Thomas Gordon

You and your child are more ready than you think. Understand that change is an inevitable part of life and holds the potential for growth. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to embrace and effectively manage feelings about change - even the unsettling ones.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this communication is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult a professional on any medical or psychological concerns. The articles and blogs are posted only as opinion or ideas, and are general in nature. The administrator takes no responsibility for any action or outcome a reader may make as a result of reading a post.

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