Perhaps your not so little one is becoming a bit worried about going to big school, or maybe you are not sure what is going on for them at this time. They must be having some thoughts about it though, right?
A little bit of uneasiness is a useful thing. It means we are pushing our boundaries and growing as a person. That’s what we want for our children, they are the next generation after all. All of these things help those marvellous brains to develop and grow. But if we can make it a bit easier, and less stressful for them, then why not?
Our brains are forever changing, and creating new neural pathways so that we can ‘do’. That amazing unconscious is always listening, it’s a sponge and it hears everything you have to say. Our words and actions are powerful, so here are a few suggestions on how you can be supportive throughout this time of transition, letting your child lead the way. They are only suggestions, make them your own, use what you feel is right for you.
Ask and be Open!
Some children just don’t want to say how they are feeling about these changes. You might notice something different in their behaviour though. Just ask your child how they are feeling. Leave it open, don’t lead with “are you nervous about starting” or “are you excited”. If they are not sure how they are feeling, you plant the seed that that is how they should be feeling. That unconscious is ALWAYS listening.
If your child didn’t have such a good time at primary school, ask them what they would like to be better about this school. They might come back and say “I don’t want to be teased/bullied”. You can help them by acknowledging them. It would be beneficial for you to feed back to them what you have heard from a different perspective – this called reframing – such as “So if you could feel confident and ignore mean things that would be useful?” Let them know you are there for them, and that you will work through things together. ‘We’ means a lot to a child. It lets them know you are there with them, but also they have some responsibilities too.
It’s quite common that there will be a mixture of emotions. Leaving the familiarity of the primary school can be unsettling, thoughts of leaving old friends behind. Talk about the new opportunities, meeting new people, and new challenges, remind your child how they have overcome these things in the past. “Remember the first day of primary school when you didn’t know anyone? Look at you now!” Share stories of how you as a parent have overcome similar situations.
Practice & Prepare
Big school brings more responsibility, learning new skills and independence. But you can help with that. Does your child have a new uniform and do they know how to do it? Do you have to wear a tie? Can they tie it? Little things like this can cause a big headache in the mornings, not to mention in PE. Do they know how to get there? Can you do a dry run before the first day? It’s the little things.
Let them be an expert!
As humans we find it easy to think of the things we do wrong or struggle with, but forget how easily we do things we are expert at. Everything is a habit, a result of perseverance and consistency until you become the master of it. Children know how to learn, and adapt, even if it is intimidating. “Remember when you couldn’t walk, now look – you don’t even think about it. It just happens. There was a time you couldn’t hold a pencil, or know any letters, now you can spell and write!” Point out all of the wonderful things they have been able to learn so far and how good they are at learning. Be the expert.
As incredible as the brain is, it doesn’t know the difference between what is actually happening and what you are thinking is happening, or about to happen. That’s why anxiety can be so crippling. Your brain believes those thoughts are actually happening for real. But we can use this to our benefit. What would your child like to happen when they start school? Rehearse it in their mind, you create a new neural pathway so that your brain is prepared for when it really happens. For example, take a few minutes and get your child to close their eyes, have a breath, relax a bit and then imagine their first school day. Visualise / imagine whatever word sits right with you and your child. See in your mind that day happening from getting up to getting home. Keep everything in a positive light so instead of thinking “Im not going to fall over in front of everyone when I find my seat think I’m going to walk in really nicely, and I’m going to find my seat. I’m feeling calm and confident.”
I promise you – the sports stars do this.
There you have it, a few simple, but powerful things you can do with your child to alleviate some anxiety towards starting secondary school. Visualisation and self-hypnosis are wonderful skills to practice and these are skills that they can take with them throughout their lives. What a lovely gift to give them.
Written by Kirsty Leitch a professional, and trusted hypnotherapist