Back to school anxiety: 3 truths children need to hear

Parenting in modern age, explained

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By Kavita Srinivasan

Published: Thu 18 Aug 2022, 4:54 PM

One of the most difficult things I have ever done is leave my two-year-old son at nursery. He cried. I cried. And I refused to leave. I could not do it. It turns out that what I did when I knew nothing about neurology, brain development and a child’s natural development, was exactly the right thing to do. Mothers know. Our bodies know what our children need. I have put together a list of truths about what our children need. This is instinct. Nature has gifted us a natural guide. Listen.

1. How to leave your infant in nursery

Children are considered infants till the age of 3. They do not know that they are separate from you. And so, leaving your two-year-old as he/she cries, and jetting off, is the ultimate trauma. This is how you do it to mitigate the separation and to ease your children into school:

A) Do a pictorial chart of exactly what to expect.

B) Get a new snack box and a bag and let your child chose his/her favourite snacks.

C) Drop your child at snack time and take him/her back right after it, even if there are no tears. The first day should never be more than 10 minutes.

D) Gradually increase it by 10 to 15 minutes every two days. It will take your child 2 to 3 weeks to settle in.

Why: Infants and toddlers are not good with transitions. Their brain isn’t equipped with the skill. By doing this gradually and gently, we allow them to learn a skill at their own pace without suffering trauma. Connect with the right brain, and then teach. The brain grows from right (feeling) to left (logic) and down (survival brain) to top (execution). When children feel safe their brain allows for learning to function. Leaving them suddenly and disappearing signals danger — the reptilian brain (survival) takes over. And they shut down. School becomes a place they do not feel safe in. Outwardly they may appear okay but inwardly their body will pump out adrenaline and cortisol and the initial taste of school was danger.

2. How to stand up to a bully

A) Listen to your children. Breathe and notice if what your child is telling you is triggering you. Soothe that part of yourself so you can create a calm and safe space for your child. Ultimately, we need to know what our children are going through. And they will stop talking to us if we overreact.

B) Give them opportunities to say NO to you. I am firm about bedtime, screen time, respecting themselves and others and eating too much sugar and processed food. I give my child ample opportunities to push back against me. How will they learn to stand up to others if they can’t stand up to you?

C) Model healthy conflict. Have a disagreement with your spouse/friend/partner in front of your child. And then model a healthy resolution. Most of the time children witness screaming matches or conflict-free households. Relationships are imperfect. Arguments are normal. The more they realise that, the better.

D) Tell them that the way people treat them is about the other person’s ‘stuff’. “Something must have been bothering him/her for him/her to talk to you like that.” This way, they take nothing personally.

3. Take pressure off the table.

Our children are more than their grades and their achievements. Defining their worth through an arbitrary standard is reducing their worth. If you want them to ace school and be successful, ask yourself why. Does academic excellence guarantee happiness and a fulfilled life? Or does fulfillment mean loving yourself just as you are? Let your children be. They are perfect just as they are. They are more than anything the world requires them to be. They are wiser than us in ways we do not even know. Stop and just love them.

It is only unconditional love that they need.

Nothing else.

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