Keep Calm And Carry On!

Picture this. It’s the first day of Kindergarten. Parents are dropping their children off. Extra exciting. Most of the kids  seem curious about the new school, some look a bit apprehensive. In general though, all children are doing well. Unlike their parents. I just couldn’t believe the drama filling up the classroom, together with all those intense emotions, furtive tears, distracting camera clicks, I-will-miss-you and blow-me-a-kiss gestures.

Naturally, it is the first day of school and it is a big deal! Of course, human beings are emotional creatures and Americans love to express their emotions more than any other human beings!  But aren’t we blowing things out of proportion here? The kids are just going to school, not to the moon. It’s just a few hours of fun play and learning mix. Nothing terrible. So why so much drama? Why so much anxiety? How exactly is it  supposed to help our children ?

Not sure if it is a personal trait, but I’ve noticed that my anxiety is my children’s anxiety.The more I overreact, the more they overreact. It’s a domino effect.  A simple example. I used to openly panic every time I couldn’t find my purse. It wasn’t an issue until I had children. Overtime, I’ve noticed that the very mentioning of my nowhere-to-be found purse was enough for my son to start crying. At first I found it endearing and empathic. But then it dawned on me that  I was subconsciously traumatizing my son.  In other words, I was sabotaging  his self-control skills and logical thinking by teaching him to overreact in stressful situations. Lesson’s learned though. I am learning to control my stress centers and my son shows his empathy calmly, as we both look for my purse, that I still notoriously misplace.

Back to the school topic. Kids need strong parents to help them go through changes and challenges. School is full those.The best we can do to help our children is to keep calm and carry on.

“First Day of School” by Anne Rockwell

Some people like it, some people hate it, but no one can deny that the summer vacation is coming to an end. Or it has already ended, depending on the school district. Naturally, it is hard to give up the guilt-free idleness, long breakfasts and late bed times. One can easily get used to living without a schedule and a piercing sound of an alarm clock. But at the same time, there is always this inexplicable excitement at a new beginning.  With a new school year,  our children open a new chapter of their lives. ( Even if they don’t understand the above metaphor yet.) Kindergarten, 1st grade, junior high… Time flies.

Our son will become a proud kindergartner this year. He is thrilled.  All he knows is that he will meet a lot of new friends at the Big-Kid-School and that he will study science, which in his mind boils down to weird experiments. How not to be excited at such prospects! But for many children the very thought of starting or going back to school might be scary. What do you do as a parent if your child is not positive about school?  I suggest a simple trick: focus shifting. Instead of talking about a new school year, a new class, a new teacher… why not to talk about new clothes for school, a new haircut or a new pencil-case?

Nicholas gets a haircut to look sharp for the first day of school. As it turns out, many of his friends get something new before the school starts. A new backpack for Kate, a new dress for Eveline, , or a new shiny key for Evan, big enough now to stay home alone. (Almost alone, that is. With a babysitter). As children give one another updates on their preparations for the first day of school, they also reminisce about their fears and laughs from the previous years. As a result, neither Nicholas, nor his friends can wait for the school to start. And nothing would be better than being in the same class with their best friends.

A very familiar scenario, isn’t it? A humorous and reassuring story. A just-right read before the school gates open. And you still have time to arrange a  playdate for your child and his/her future class-mates.  We had ours last weekend and I must say, it is a great icebreaker, indeed.

116. “Mr. Monkey’s Classroom” by Jiwon Oh

The first day of school is certainly an exciting experience, but it can also be a very traumatic one. So many new faces in a new place! It might be overwhelming and it surely was for me. I had always thought that having an older sibling would have eased the pain, but lately, I have been having second thoughts…

Mouse was one day away from his first day of school. According to his friend, Cat, there was a lot to be done, like buying new school gear and getting a good night rest. Mouse played along. Mouse stayed cool. All in all, the school couldn’t be that bad if his friend, Cat, was there too. But was she? After Cat had met her old school friends on the way to school, Mouse basically didn’t exist  anymore. Mouse was alone when  finding his classroom, meeting the teacher and… eating lunch. How not to lose appetite!  Cat noticed Mouse leave the cafeteria and she understood. Mouse needed some explanation. Whatever it was, it worked and it completely turned Mouse’s first day of school around.

If your younger child struggles to decipher the strange acting of his or her older sibling at school, “Mr. Monkey’s Classroom” offers helpful answers. At the same time, it reminds the older siblings, that perhaps helping the younger brother or sister during the first days of school is much cooler than simply cruelly disowning them.

The book effectively deals with a delicate social issue, relevant to many young students, and it does it in a very cute and subtle way. Besides, the book surely stands out thanks to the unique illustrations, which are basically bright, Asian-style collages, filled with humor and engaging details.