The best way to assist an introvert little one: Parenting ideas
No matter how excited your child was to pick out a new lunch box and backpack this year, there will likely be days when they just don’t want to go to school. Whether they say, “I don’t like school” when you play together at home or have a breakdown on your way to the classroom, there are things you can say to ease your nerves for going back to school.
More than the exact words you use, the most important thing is your attitude, which your child will definitely be aware of. It’s important to acknowledge their feelings while conveying the calm confidence that school is the place for them and they can handle it.
Here are some phrases to encourage your child to go to school.
1. “You are safe here.”
When you have a young child, they may be genuinely afraid of leaving you and going to school. Tell them the school is a safe place with people caring for them. If you say this with calm confidence, they will believe you. No matter what words you say, if your child feels your hesitation, your own fear of leaving, they will not feel safe. How can you be safe when you are clearly afraid to leave? Try to process your own feelings if you release them before the actual day so that you can be a calm presence and support.
2. “I love you and I know you can do it.”
It is best to keep the goodbye short, even if your child is crying or clinging to you, and trust that you have chosen a good place for him or her. Most children recover quickly from a tough goodbye after their parents say goodbye.
If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, hug them tightly and tell them you love them and know they can. Saying something like, “It’s just school, you’ll be fine” diminishes their feelings. Instead, acknowledge that this is difficult but you are sure that they are up to the task. This confirms the fear they feel while ending on a positive note.
After a quick calming down, make your exit, take a deep breath, and trust that you are fine.
3. “First you have circle time, then work time and then you play on the playground.”
Discuss with your child the daily routine at school, including as many details as possible. Discuss what happens when you drop them off, what work they do, when they have lunch and play outside, and who will pick them up in the afternoon.
It can help to do this several times to familiarize yourself with the new daily rhythm.
4. “I’ll pick you up after the game time.”
Give your child a frame of reference for their return.
If your child can tell the time, you can tell them you will see them at 3:30 p.m. If they are younger tell them what will happen before you pick them up. Maybe you get her right after lunch, or maybe after math class.
By providing this reference point, you can reassure them that you will actually be back and that there is a specific schedule for when they will see you again. As the days progress, they will find that you come regularly every day, if you are told to, and their fears will subside.
5. “What book do you think your teacher will read this morning when you come to school?”
Find out what happens first in your child’s school life and help them face this task mentally. In a Montessori school, children choose their own work, so you might ask which work your child would like to do first.
If they’re in a more traditional school, find an aspect of the school morning they enjoy and talk about it.
Thinking about the whole school day can seem daunting, but when you help your child focus on one particular thing that is about to happen, it can seem easier to work with.
6. “Do you think Johnny will be there today?”
Remind your child of the friends they will see when they come to school.
If you’re not sure who your child is bonding with, ask the teacher. On the way to school, talk about the children who can expect them and ask what they could do together.
If your child is new to school, arranging a play date with a child in their class can be helpful to help them build strong relationships.
7. “It’s a tough feeling. Tell me about it.”
Even if dropping out is not the time to indulge in heavy feelings of not wanting to go to school, take some time to listen if your child raises concerns after school or on the weekend.
Children are very easily influenced by our guiding questions. Therefore, keep your questions very general and neutral so your child can tell you what they are really feeling.
They can reveal that they simply miss you in their absence, or that they fear a certain person or type of work.
Let them know you sympathize with how they are feeling, but try not to be too dramatic. If you think there is a real problem, talk to the teacher about it, but your reaction can certainly influence the already hesitant feelings about going to school.
8. “What can we do to make you feel better?”
Help your child come up with some solutions to make them feel more comfortable attending school.
Choose a time at home when they are quiet. Take out a pen and paper to show you mean business.
If they miss you, would a special note in their pocket every morning help them? If another child bothers you, what could you say or who could you ask for help? If you are too tired in the morning, could bedtime earlier make you feel better?
Make it a collaborative process rather than a rescue situation to build their trust.
9. “What was the best part of your school day?”
Pick a time when your child is away from school and start talking about your day. Tell them about the best part of your day, then ask about the best part of their day. Practice this every day.
It’s easy to focus on the hardest parts of an experience because they tend to stand out in our heads. Help your child realize that there are likely parts of school that they really enjoy, even if they don’t always want to go.
10. “Can’t wait to go to the park together when we get home.”
If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, remind them of what you will do together after you pick them up from school.
Even if it’s just a matter of going home and preparing dinner, your child is likely to be longing for time with you, so help them remember it is coming.
It is completely normal for children to go through periods when they do not want to go to school. If you’re concerned, speak to your child’s teacher and ask if they seem happy and engaged when they’re in the classroom.
Be there for your child to listen, help if you can, and reassure them that their feelings are natural and that they are up to the challenges of the school day, even if it seems difficult.