My family began the new year with a new school. The sudden and unfortunate closure of our beloved daycare last fall gave us the opportunity to research new preschools and daycares. Fortunately, we found a preschool in our neighborhood that met our needs. To prepare our daughter Ilse for her new school, we bought her a new lunch box and new clothes. We also talked about school with her every day, leading to the first day.
Of course, all the planning could not prepare us for what followed: utter exhaustion. The first week was rough. Daily morning tears and proclamations of “I don’t want to go” were coupled with nightly arguments about not wanting to go to bed. The transition has been brutal. Even the mere mention at dinner of “going to school” has brought Ilse to tears. Thankfully, she’s been all smiles when I pick her up in the afternoons. It’s a start, and one that can only get better with time. So, I’d like to share a handful of lessons I/we have learned this past week.
It’s okay to cry
I was hoping that the excitement of attending a new school would override any fear that my daughter had. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Ilse has cried every day. At breakfast, in the car, and at the drop-off. No amount of reassuring, smiles, and promises of sweets could soothe her. The transition has been challenging for her, but I want her to know that it’s okay to cry and to be scared. It’s also okay for us parents to cry too, as I did one day. The good thing is that the crying stops eventually; the transition will no longer be a transition but the new normal.
Plan and prep school lunches & backpacks
On the same topic of the new normal, preparing Ilse’s lunch has become the new normal. Ilse’s day lunch plan has now been incorporated to my daily dinner plan on our dry erase board in our kitchen. As an avid cook, making Ilse’s lunch has posed an exciting challenge for me because Ilse does not like sandwiches. I have made stews and hearty rice dishes for her this past week, and she has enjoyed them. I pair it with milk, fruit, and crackers. Ilse loves to eat, so I err on giving her more food than not. Since she likes a hot meal, I prepare her lunch and backpack in the morning. As long as I have a menu to work from, preparing her lunch comes together quickly.
Build your family calendar before school commences
We received the school calendar prior to the holidays, and I promptly scheduled all of the school’s events into our Google calendar. My husband’s and my respective work schedules can get harried, particularly since I travel for work five times year. Incorporating Ilse’s school schedule into our family calendar early allows us to see all our events, so we don’t double-book ourselves. We also want our daughter to know that her school events matter. While we may not be able to attend all of them, we can at least talk about them with her and make sure she is prepared for them.
Make friends with the school staff
Just like when Ilse was in daycare, I have met and am making friends with all of Ilse’s teachers and caregivers. Like everything else in our life, communication is key to learning and staying in the know, especially with a new school. If Ilse is struggling in a particular subject, I want to know, so we can address it at home. I also want to assure the teachers that we care about them too. I can only imagine how challenging it might be for them to deal with new students every school term. A little empathy can go long way.
As the new routine becomes the normal for our family, I know that Ilse’s morning tears will eventually become morning smiles and hugs. While I knew the transition to new school would be challenging for her, I underestimated how exhausting starting a new school would be for all of us. No amount of planning could prepare us for how the week went. But lessons we’ve learned and the systems we’re cultivating should make this transition easier for everyone.