And so the new term begins with its busy days and shorter evenings. Pretty much every teacher is fighting the thoughts of winter and when they will see the sun again but also excited to meet the new children and challenges that the year will bring…enjoying reconnecting with their job and their work place and the routine of life. There is a lingering sadness of loss of freedom but memories of warm days with loved ones motivates them to continue on hoping for more memories to come (that’s how this teacher feels anyway).
However, last night I was really struck by the suddenness and feelings of cruelness that some children feel towards the return to school. They were having such a lovely time doing their own thing everyday and getting to decide how they spent their time. They were enjoying lots of opportunities for time with their parents and now things have suddenly changed. I think this is really hard for the young ones particularly. They don’t have a calendar and a diary. When this wonderful summer started they didn’t really consider that this was a short term 6 week delight which would come to an end. One friend shared an insightful conversation she had with her Year 1 child recently before her first day at school:
Child: Why do I have to go to school?
Mum: We spoke about this yesterday, today is when you start back.
Child: but I love you mummy.
Mum: I love you too, but we’ve still got to get ready for school.
Child: Then why are you sending me to be with teachers that don’t love me as much as you do?
Wow! What a challenging question from such a little one! I wondered how you are coping with these challenging questions.
As a teacher, I am always keen to tell a class that I love them. Keen for them to know that they are loved and accepted in the classroom and that it is my job to be there for them and help them with anything they are struggling with. They just need to let me know. But I am totally aware that the best thing in the world for them, is time with their parents and this little one knew that so well.
Another friend contacted me last night and shared her struggles with her daughter’s escalating challenging behaviour of name calling and hitting at bedtime. She is also in Year 1. Mum couldn’t see how to change it and was giving up hope. Perhaps this is you too? Perhaps there are routines and behaviours creeping in that you are unsure what to do with?
I asked a simple question. When she comes home from school, what does she do?
And also, What are you doing during the time?
This little family have a typical routine. She has her snack, does her homework, plays and watches TV. Then has dinner and gets ready for bed. Mum is cooking and cleaning. And Dad comes home to the stage of putting her to bed.
I wonder…what does your routine look like?
With the lingering thoughts of my previous friends Facebook post, and the knowledge of how powerful play time is as a Filial Play Coach, I was struck that this was the thing that was missing!
Where was the play?
I suggested that the family plan in some play time together. 15 minutes 1:1 time each day. Replace the negative times with positive ones and grow the relationship back up. Her tantrums are because she is trying to communicate that she has not been able to get what she needed in that day. The best thing in the world! Time with parents! Time with those who love her and are there for her. Busy families often forget to play. This little one was relationship seeking.
I encouraged mum to let her choose what to do in the play time. Don’t decide for her. I offered the idea to perhaps make a jar of play ideas together that can be dipped into and also signals that the play time is not a one off event.
My other advice was to be really clear with boundaries around bedtime and timing expectations. Giving as much warning as possible that it is about to take place. Whether that is, first we do this and then we do that. Or a countdown of minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 and 1. With a neutral tone reminding the child it is time to brush their teeth, or get their pyjamas on.
So this little family is going to see if some quality play time will make the bedtime routine a little easier for them. I am going to wait eagerly for the results (knowing that the Power of Play is always the solution).
Play should never be neglected. Be careful not to load your children up with lots of clubs to do their play away from home…it is you they are hoping for! It is you they want to play with! You are the best thing in the world to them (not the toy or the game).
If setting up a special play time with your child to strengthen your relationships is something you would like help with and be interested in. Why not contact me and book some Filial Play Coaching sessions and we can work together to build up more memories to treasure every day.