It’s that time of year again - where change is hanging in the air. The mutterings in the playgrounds are all about uniform and school shoes; who’s more disorganised; and whose kids are bickering or playing up more!
Transitions can be unsettling and throw up a complex array of emotions in all of us. For us parents it might evoke feelings of overwhelm about all the things we need to sort out and prepare for, layered with a sense of excitement and hope at the anticipation of getting back to a regular routine, some craved for headspace and time to ourselves. But maybe you're also getting hit by small or even big waves of anxiety about what the next few weeks and months might hold for you and your child, and even a sense of sadness and loss as we say goodbye to the summer days and yet another phase of their childhood. This complex ambivalence can leave us feeling fragile and exhausted.
If we find transitions hard, they are often even harder for our children, as they too experience this confusing mix of emotions. Change inevitably means some level of unrest - from night wakings, clingy-ness, bickering, tantrums or more.
This year is a particularly big transition for me and my family as we are moving house, location and school all at once. I know I am going to have to dig deep to support us all through the enormous changes in our lives, so I have been looking back at some of the expert chats we hosted last year in our ‘Back to School Series’ with Hannah Abrahams, Dr Martha Deiros Collado, Natalie Costa.
Here are just some of the key themes from the discussions: (and you can catch up on the full interviews here)
Prepare, prepare, prepare - get familiar with the new setting, the route to school, what it’s like to put on a uniform, how the morning routine will work. Talk about what will happen during the school day, how the first day might flow, how your child might feel. You could use role play, games or draw together with your kids. Visual aids and timetables are also really great.
Illicit positive memories or memories of resilience - You could ask them a series of questions such as: ‘Can you remember a time when you did something new or scary before? What did you learn from the experience? Was it as bad as you thought? What helped you get through that challenge?’ Or you could make your own observations: ‘remember that time when your teacher read you that funny story’ ‘remember how you were nervous on your first day at nursery, but you met Jake and Tommy and had so much fun with the trains’
Take the pressure off - you and your kids. Don’t set up loads of clubs and playdates in the first week. Don’t bombard them with questions as soon as they come out of school. Don’t expect them to make loads of new friends on day one. Don’t expect it to be plain sailing from day one.
Notice & praise - communicate how resilient they are being. Notice and praise what has happened and gone well, let go and leave what has not happened or what has not gone well.
Create space to talk about feelings - Use play, drawing or journaling to open up the conversation about how they might be feeling. Don’t push too hard, but instead think about where they feel safe and secure. Often that might be at bedtime, but it also might be at the kitchen table, or doing some colouring alongside you.
Notice, name & validate - Noticing, naming and talking about emotions can be hugely powerful at taking away their power. It’s essential that we show up with empathy and validate their experiences. Letting them know it’s ok to feel all these feelings and that they will pass. It can also help to notice and verbalize our own feelings.
Keep your self-care cup topped up - Our kids take on our own feelings nonverbally. It’s important to be mindful of how we are showing up emotionally. As parents we need to be the container to hold all their big emotions. Sometimes this can be really hard when we are exhausted and frazzled ourselves. It’s so important to keep checking in on ourselves and to give ourselves time-out to recharge, soothe our nervous system & nourish our minds. If you need to take a moment to yourself to ground yourself, before being able to ground them, that’s OK.
Remember the storms will pass. A wobbly day doesn’t mean it will be a wobbly week. A wobbly week doesn't mean it will be a wobbly year. It can really help to verbalise this to yourself and to your kids. ‘This will pass.’ ‘It will get easier’
Rupture & repair - We are all only human and we all explode sometimes. If our container bursts and we fail to hold all their emotions that’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. The most important thing is that we repair. Saying sorry and giving our kids a hug can be a great way to model ways to make amends to them.
Empathy & compassion starts with ourselves 💕 It's so easy to blame ourselves when we experience stormy weather at home. To question everything we do. To beat ourselves up for not being more prepared. For not knowing how to navigate it all better. But whatever turbulence you experience, remember you are an amazing mum. It's not your fault. You are more than enough. Transitions are difficult. It's much easier for us to find compassion and empathy for our kids, when we are being compassionate with ourselves. So please, don’t forget to keep nourishing you!
Back to School/Nursery support on the Nourish app
For further expert-led support for navigating Transitions and New Beginnings, Back to School Challenges and Separation Anxiety, check out the resources on the Nourish App from Emma Svanberg (Clinical Psychologist) and Hannah Abrahams (Educational and Child Psychologist).
You’ll also find lots of calming and grounding tools to support you during this unsettling time, so you can best support your child. Finally we have created a dedicated section on the app with simple grounding tools and relaxation exercises you can share with your children.
About the author
Sara is a mum of two, a personal development coach and founder of the Nourish App. She is a passionate advocate of all things that nourish the mind. She believes we all have the potential to achieve our personal and professional ambitions and find greater harmony and balance in our busy lives.
You can find Sara at: