It's not that I didn't want to snap a beautiful back to school picture of my daughter, I try every time we pop on that new uniform, but for a child who's experienced the first two years of school during a pandemic it's a little bit tough to get them to feel like going to school isn't something they should be anxious about.
My daughter is 6 years old and this morning was tough for us both. I think it was tough for the whole household after she had woken them up with her plea to stay at home repeated at least 1000 times. Accompanied with a lot of tears.
I spend my days as a counsellor advising people how to manage their anxieties, so why was this morning so challenging for me, and why am I now sitting here with a soggy year two tears tissue and a hot cup of tea to hold back my tears as I write this post?
I'm emotionally involved. I love my daughter with every breath I take, but this morning's anxieties tested my patience as a mum. As bad as that sounds reading it back it did, that's truthful parenting. Sometimes you question every challenge that is thrown your way, and anxiety is a challenge that doesn't just go away on its own. It needs reassurance, evidence and nurturing, just like our little ones do.
My advice for anyone who like me has had the most emotional morning of their lives getting their little ones or big ones to school is to breathe for a second and release ant guilt that's taking over your thoughts. Those thoughts are not needed, and they're certainly not true if like me you're questioning yourself as a parent. This isn't you, this is anxiety. Separation anxiety can actually come from a good place, it means your child is secure with you, they feel safe. They haven't had the opportunity to feel safe or secure in school because of the pandemic. Tough that isn't it.
So what am I doing to help support my daughter? I didn't get emotional, I kept level headed and focused on the positives, while gently reminding her as we walked to school. I left with lots of time to spare, this gave us time to say hello to friends at the gate before going in. Rushing around creates even more anxiety, so avoid that! I've created a reward chart for her to earn some extra screen time for being brave.
Truthfully, the real thing that's going to help support my daughter through this is evidence. Evidence that she will collect herself during school to store in her mind when those anxieties creep in. The absolute worst thing I could have done would have been to keep her off, it might have been the easiest but seriously keeping our children off when they feel anxious isn't allowing them to learn that it's ok to feel anxious, it's what we do next that's important. Phobias are the same, we run from the things that scare us. When really if we face those fears we're creating a new pattern of thoughts.
My daughter will be getting the biggest hug after school, when by the way she will skip out after having the best day. That is until she realises she's going back tomorrow, and I have to do this all over again until that evidence finds its way to her conscious thoughts.
We've got this! Well, most of the time we do, and that's ok!
Enjoy your day.