Thursday, August 30, 2012

Back to School Blues

Does this look like a happy face?

We are in the final stretch now. Summer is winding down and the start of a new school year is mere days away.  Little Boo is heading into first grade, after half-day kindergarten, so he will certainly need to adjust his expectations. But at the same time, he has been in full-time daycare since he was 11 months old, so the transition shouldn't be too overwhelming.  His daycare is in his school, and he is used to the routines of transferring between classroom and daycare.

But it's still a transition. And Little Boo has never been good with change. He needs lots of fore-warning when any change is about to occur, be it a major change in plans for a special outing, or just transitioning from playtime to mealtime.

Yesterday he received a welcome letter from his new teacher. It was written as a poem and covered with stickers. Very fun!  I took the opportunity to talk to LB about this coming change, to see how he felt. Of course, this is the type of conversation we like to have at bedtime, snuggled together under his covers. It's a "safe" time, when he feels comforted. And I think the little bit of sleepiness, combined with a darkened room, allows him to let his guard down a bit and really talk about his feelings.

I asked him if he is excited for grade one, to which he answered yes. He's particularly happy to be back in class with some older friends (his room is a grade1/2 split). This is great, but, it brought us to the fact that some of his friends have gone on to other schools, particularly those who streamed to French Immersion. It broke my heart to hear him say, after a long silence where he was clearly dwelling on this, "I really miss Q." Poor kid. His special girlfriend won't be back either. But I think having this talk now will help him to manage expectations and have a smoother start next week. I also countered with names of a couple of great friends who will be back again, after a summer away from daycare. That got a huge smile, and helped him feel good about the new year again.

To help prepare him, I talked with him about the schedule for each day, how he'll do daycare, school, back to daycare for lunch, school, then daycare and after school activities (like science club!) until we get him after work. Knowing what to expect is very important for him, so I'm sure to give him a picture of how his day will play out.

I also gave him some space to talk about any other concerns he had. The one big thing? He's going to miss "big blocks." That was a special play area in the kindergarten room that was his absolute favourite. And he's actually pretty upset about not having that any more. What I realised then - although he understood he was going to first grade, he didn't really understand he would not be going back to his old kindergarten classroom. Perhaps this is in part because he spent two school years there. Perhaps it's because he's 6.  But I'm really glad we figured this out in advance and can help him understand how this school thing works before he's thrown into it next week.

Are you talking with your kids about back to school? Their expectations? Hopes? Fears? Every child is different and will respond to these changes in their own way. But I think it's good for us as parents to take the temperature of the situation, to touch base and make sure our kids know they can share their concerns and get our support or guidance. Some for sure need it more than others.

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