My five-year-old started kindergarten last week and he is almost finished with his second week. It wasn’t an easy transition for him and here is how we supported him using Parenting by Connection tools.
Through summer, my son resisted to the idea of kindergarten. “You are going to kindergarten, are you excited?” he was often asked and his answer was an adamant “No!”
Toward the end of a summer full of fun, Special Time and Staylistening my son's response changed from an absolute “No!” to a “Maybe.”
But then, he kept resisting, not going into a classroom for kindergarten assessments, and we had to come back for the second day and still the teachers had to come outside their rooms to give him assessments in the playground!
Despite his resistance, I could tell he wanted to give kindergarten a try. For example, he would talk about going to school. or choose to have his Special Time in the kindergarten playground where we played his favorite “mom-ster” game- I play a feeble monster (“mom-ster”) and try in vain to catch him while he swiftly runs away.
His first week at kindergarten came and he went very reluctantly. On Friday, I was told that he became quite upset, crying and trying to run away after his dad dropped him off. I had a meeting with the school counselor who listened to him that day and she graciously offered for us to use her room for any other separation upsets in the future.
Both my husband and I felt it would be really difficult to make him go the next week.
Over the following three day weekend, we decided to focus on his feelings around separation; my saying goodbye before going on an errand, playing physically together and playing hide-and-seek, and making our bedtime earlier to give my son a chance to express his feelings on separation. Also, each son had one of us parents for half a day including an hour of Special Time.
The morning of second week came. My son was half-naked without his pj shirt waking up. After five minutes of Special Time in bed, I suggested putting on his day shirt. He wouldn’t. It was a small and quiet sign expressing his inside feelings. I said very softly, “It’s time to put on your shirt.” He ran out of bed to the other room. I followed him, saying “Let’s put on your shirt and get ready for school.” As soon as he heard the word, “school,” he tightened up and ran away again. I tried to play, but he wouldn’t laugh. “It's time to go.” This time, he tried to kick me. I guarded with my arm, held his legs as gently as I could and said softly, “No, no kicking. It’s time to get ready for school.”
He started making some noise, wriggling, then crying loudly saying, “I don’t want to go to school!” I listened. His crying continued. I encouraged, “I know your teacher is waiting for you. She likes you.” More crying and “No!” “You are going to make more friends.” He cried more. We kept on going like this for 45 minutes.
Luckily that morning, my husband was able to take my older son, so they left.
I had barely an hour before work that morning, so I debated inside whether it would be a good idea to spend time on his crying at home like this.
It wasn’t easy to decide to stay and listen to him as his crying seemed to be getting nowhere and I started to wonder if my sitting next to him listening quietly and encouraging him once in a while would look like I was doing a good job of parenting. But I had witnessed enough to decide to invest my time and attention then while I was calm.
Gradually his crying shifted and he would look around commenting like, “Oh, look at the bird outside.” When I nudged him again in the direction of starting a morning routine, getting dressed, eating breakfast and eventually going to school, he would cry a while more. By then, he was lying down on my lap, sobbing.
Finally, he looked more relaxed with his eyebrows lifted, looking at me in the eye, talking about things he remembered from school. He got up and did all the morning routine with an attitude of “I can't wait to go!”
We were half an hour late for school, but the transition went smoothly. My son had no difficulty walking into the classroom and waving goodbye. And I wasn't late for my work.
It's the end of the week and my husband just called to say that the school drop-off went smoothly today and “whatever you did on Tuesday is really working!”
—Keiko Sato-Perry, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor
Listen to a podcast of a recent teleseminar “Parenting: Going Deeper”, in which Keiko presented.
You can read more of Keiko's stories here and learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.