As I bid her farewell today, I was able to smile. My daughter had had her hiccups about settling into school but finally, things were looking up.
You see, she is a very shy child socially. While she is not scared of people, she finds it difficult to become one with a new group. When I enrolled her in play-group, the question that tormented me for the longest time was if she was ready? Unfamiliar people, no mamma around and a new physical environment: well not her choicest thing! And I didn’t want her to huddle in a corner like an anxious little bunny. So here’s how I prepared her, and myself for the new journey called school.
1. Made her feel secure: I spoke to the educator and explained to her how I needed my child to believe that I would be around. We worked out a ‘parent on campus’ plan for the first few minutes daily. I would just linger around the class, somewhere such that she could see me without disturbing the functioning. This helped her because in her head she knew I was right behind her. She trusted that I was around and started participating a little bit more each day. Once she got acquainted with the space and people, she didn’t need me around.
2. Invite Friends Over: New friends in a new class or a new school can make the child anxious with the question “will I be able to befriend him?” My daughter wasn’t one to initiate friendship. I requested the teacher for a list of kids attending the school from the vicinity of our residence. I called the mothers and we arranged a play-date. This informal orientation with the kids helped my daughter find familiar faces in her new class. Needless to say, she had a little smile and knew right where to go after she left her bag on the rack.
3. Start Early: For the first few days, we reached school much before other kids. My daughter and I would walk around the campus talking and then wait outside her class watching all the other kids trickle in. We used this time to talk about what we observed. “Oh! Look at Mysa’s gorgeous beautiful pink pants!! You love pink too, don’t you!?” or “WOW! Pooja is looking at that squirrel. I think she likes animals like you do.” Basically what I was doing was setting grounds for conversation. Making her understand that the others are children like her and share similar interests. Not so surprisingly, she made friends with the girl who wore Barbie Slippers (my daughter didn’t get her name so we call her ‘the girl with the Barbie slippers!’)
4. Give The Teacher a Heads Up: This was crucial for me in the interest for my child. While teachers know their jobs, I did mine. Just sharing what interests my daughter, what upsets her, which games she is comfortable with or which topics excite her helped the teacher in breaking the ice with my daughter. It also aided the teacher in finding like-minded class buddies for my child.
5. Take her interests to school: She loves her clay work. I encouraged her to make her clay models and carry them to school. Taking things of her interest to school gave her some aid to initiate talks and share herself. So while she didn’t speak out right away, she waited for her time and eventually showed off her little clay caterpillar in class. It made her feel accepted.
6. Find a mentor: While this is not to encourage copying anyone, it can work well. Allotting a mentor in class, someone who can bond with your child, show her through, help her with class activities and join her on the slides may help your child to develop conversations with another person in a more relaxed manner.
7. Work on her self-confidence: I realised her self-worth needed to be re-instated. I helped boost her self-confidence by using praise and clearly appreciating her behaviours when she made and effort. For instance, if she has greeted someone (a big deal for her because she is shy) I would appreciate for saying ‘hello’ and tell her that it was really brave. Slowly, she’s beginning to believe in herself and child believe and is more confident handling new situations and challenges in school.
Wish every child a great schooling experience!
All pictures in this article are original and belong to the author. Reproducing them in any form without the permission of the author will not be allowed.