Back to School: Safe Place to Land
Back-to-school season is upon us. Some children are already back to school and some are preparing for this adventure to begin! This can be a huge adjustment for our precious little ones. Often our little, and not-so-little, ones do not have the words to express their worries, questions, fears or excitement. This is where the safe place to let things out comes in.
How can you help if they do not tell you what they need?
Let’s put this in perspective. You have just started a new job. Imagine all the emotions you go through. It is hard for you to pinpoint what exactly is causing you angst but you can at least state “I am nervous”. Then you start to verbally unload on a friend or family member. After that conversation, you feel so much better.
Children are famous for acting out their feelings as opposed to talking. The first weeks back to school, I would recommend that you are prepared for many different emotional outbursts to happen. Know that these emotional responses are your child’s way of dealing with the changes. They have absolutely nothing to do with you!
Your child may seem absolutely fine when they get home, then all of a sudden they are freaking out because their sibling touched them him or the couch is not comfortable or ……(you get the point). Just know that this is to be expected. Being the safe place for your child to unload emotionally will benefit them in the long run.
Does this mean that you can’t explain that the outbursts are not acceptable??
No. It means that you can help your child learn that they are reacting to things instead of dealing with their emotions from the day. It is the whole concept of being “proactive instead of reactive”.
One of the most helpful things that I have found is to ask the question “I am wondering if…”. I will often state “I am wondering if you are tired or hungry”. Also, labeling what you see is important. “Man I am noticing that when you get home from school you get angry”.
How can you help your child cope with all this emotion?
- If your child is one that loves hugs, meet them with open arms!
- Have a snack prepared so your child does not get “hangry”.
- Plan a low-key evening for the first few weeks.
- Put your phone or other electronics away and give your child your attention.
- Engage in some fun play or roughhousing. Laughter can be just as therapeutic as crying.
- Let your child guide his play with you for about 10 to 15 minutes. Child Directed play rocks!
I encourage you to be your child’s safe place to land at the end of the day! Slowly over time, you will see a major reduction in your child’s emotional reactions. This will be your cue that your child is beginning to adjust to the new grade. If the behaviour does not change then I would recommend reaching out for additional supports.