Now that it is almost a month since my son started school, I think I can safely let go of my anxieties and discuss about it.
There is no fool-proof single way to deal with the situation where your child is stepping out of the cocoon of your home.
Here is how I went about it:
Social Exposure [Background]
For the last [almost] 2.5 years, my son has spent most of his time only with me. I have never left my son with anybody else except my husband [not even either of the grandparents]. Though I have always ensured he got his daily dose of outdoor sun and play, and meeting other kids; I rarely ever go to anybody’s home for social calls [the usual meet-ups happen either late mornings or afternoons or evenings, which does not gel well with my son’s schedule]. So, he wasn’t much used to social gatherings, but like all kids, he would be curious about kids his age.
Many times well-meaning parents send their kids to school before they are the right age, may be to give them advantage of age later. But from personal experience I realized, it hardly matters. Moreover, when kids are very young even 3 months can make a big difference in the level of learning they are ready for or separation anxiety they can suffer from. It is important to time it right. I did not want to send my son before he was 2.5 years of age. He should be old enough to explain himself comfortably.
The stories and books about school came in a few months before starting school. We would talk about all the fun activities kids do at Playschool. We would read books like ‘Starting School’, ‘I Love You All Day Long’ and ‘I am Too Absolutely Small for School’. I would take him out in the mornings to show kids from the society rushing for school including some of his own friends; and also tell him fun stories from our own school days.
The School Hunt
A checklist notwithstanding, the school which you will eventually decide on will be largely based on your gut feeling and your child’s destiny. After evaluating a couple of schools in the vicinity, what really worked in favour of the chosen school were: they were more forthcoming in explaining everything [transparency / empathizing with parents’ anxieties], they encouraged our son to explore games and activities there [making the child comfortable], they were flexible about when he could join, the duration was less than other schools [2 hours vis-à-vis 3 hours], they followed a healthy tiffin schedule [gels well with my anti-junk food rule], the space was relatively safer and better laid out, among several other points.
Sense of Familiarity
Of course, we took our son along while hunting for the school. He was the most comfortable in his current school. We went there atleast 4-5 times before he started school. We practiced our commute from one week prior to starting school. The best part was that their timing [9 am to 11 am] fit perfectly with my son’s schedule. Apart from going to school, nothing else changed in his schedule – waking up, nap / bedtimes, breakfast time, etc., all remained the same. To top it all, I managed to convince another friend to send his son to the same school. The kids are friends already so I felt it would be less disconcerting for both of them.
Everything said and done what makes or breaks the situation is the moment when you actually leave the child to himself. The first day, both of us [mom and dad] went with the kiddo. Dad left after half an hour, mom stayed back in the main area. A teacher kept him occupied and let him explore the activity area. He refused to step inside the classroom, but neither did he come to me. The second day, I kept myself occupied reading a book while sitting in the main area and stayed out of his way. He went inside the classroom and participated in everything. The third day was also the same.
Now as the days were passing, I was getting anxious, how to say goodbye and leave because the school wasn’t going to let me hang around forever! I was certainly not going to be the one who would drop a howling toddler to school and forcibly leave him with the school people. Everyone keeps telling about how kids are inconsolable in the beginning but adapt very soon. Well, the truth is they don’t have a choice. But they lose a little bit of faith in you. They start to accept that you can leave them in strange places among strange people.
I did not want to break his trust. The fourth day, as he was leaving for school with daddy, I told him I would be coming soon. He could see I was ready so there was no reason to disbelieve me. I followed them to school but when I reached, the dad informed me that the kiddo was told Mama would be there to pick him up in some time. I waited for half an hour outside the gate, checked on him from whoever I could talk to, came back home and then called up after sometime. I was assured everything was okay. When I went to pick him up, he was playing. When I caught his eyes, his eyes shone but he did not come running or start crying. He gave me a warm smile and came to me.
It has been the same till now. I don’t go to drop him because I feel it is far easier for him to let go of Mama at home in these initial days than it would be at the school gate. Initially for a couple of days, he did express minor protests while entering the school but he was okay within 2 minutes. It is normal for the child to resist letting go of his anchor but if he is okay pretty soon then there is nothing to worry about.
Personally, it is a major milestone for me. And I hope my experience will come handy to other parents on similar thresholds. All the best 🙂
Reema Sahay is a Stay-At-Home-Mom, Freelance Writer, Voracious Reader, Passionate Blogger, Social Media Enthusiast, Internet Junkie and Ex-Marketing Communication Professional. She spends her days running after her very curious toddler, ‘the star’, and catching up on books when he naps. She writes about charms and challenges of life at Pen Paper and shares her passion for books at Recommend Books. She sometimes feels that her 5.5 years stint in Marketing Communication was in another life.