Interrupted routines can wreak havoc on a child that craves consistency
Here’s how you can help!
As much as I looked forward to summer holidays and two weeks with my kids at Christmas and spring break, I was apprehensive about the time off, too. Not because I had to keep them occupied during the day and arrange for sitters while at work, but because I have one daughter who always had a hard time getting back into the swing of things once school started again.
Transitions between schools, grades and even joining new extracurricular activities were met with resistance and hesitation and it seemed that no matter what I tried, I couldn’t ease her anxiety and mine.
Back to school on a Monday meant that the tension ramped up on Sunday night. It was even worse after a long weekend; often she would miss the first day back complaining of a stomach ache. Even as adults we can find transitions hard, so imagine what it’s like for little kids. And the harder it is for them, the more challenging it becomes for us as we try to ease them into new environments and back into regular routines.
Is it me?
I once had a teacher tell me that my daughter’s clinginess before the school bell rang was my fault. According to her, Amy sensed my apprehension and hung on to my leg even harder. If I could just relax and reassure her that it was okay to go inside, she would sense my positive vibes. In truth, I was very okay with the teachers and the school; everyone was very kind and helpful. My problem was that I didn’t know how to handle Amy’s issues with separation, which caused me to tense up.
I figured out the real cause of her anxiety, I was better able to help her manage it.
Talk, talk and talk some more
I began to realize that I was promoting a type of avoidance behaviour. If I distracted Amy and kept her busy before school, there was less time for her to become apprehensive, I thought. It turned out that my efforts to steer her attention towards other things, in her mind confirmed that her anxiety was well founded.
So I started talking more about school at home and in the car. We sometimes played school at home (with my daughter as the teacher!) and I tried to relax when I dropped her off. If she resisted going into the classroom, I reassured her it was okay and she would have a good day, and I walked off. We still had some off days, but the key was to keep forging ahead and not two steps back.
Try to keep a consistent routine
Holidays mean late nights and sleeping in until noon. Even though everyone in the family deserves a break, try to keep late bedtimes to only a couple of days. Returning to school or daycare cranky and tired makes drop-offs harder and it can take a week or so to get back on schedule.
Indulge their hobbies
Skiing, swimming, gymnastics or art class, whatever your child’s passion, let them go overboard. Help them to understand that time off means having fun but back to school means concentrating on school work. Sometimes having too much fun can make them miss their regular routine because it’s familiar.
If your child consistently has difficulty with separation or adjusting to new environments, a talk with your doctor may be in order. The sooner you can jump on any anxious behaviour, the sooner you can help her learn how to navigate them and develop good coping skills for life.