Full time parents: Re-connecting with the world 

  
Being a full time-stay at home parent for many people means disconnection from professional career. The distance from what we used to do before becoming a parent vary and we also take a break for a different period of time.
There are some circumstances in which come back to work can be particularly difficult.

Sometimes the break from work is very long and detachment from a job market is total. Some people left or lost their careers before becoming parents. Many families move to new cites or countries to have a fresh start. Without a network, with language barrier, differences in qualification system, building a career in foreign place is a huge task in itself. It becomes bigger when for a period of time we were preoccupied with the inner world of our family life and most importantly – with the youngest family members (some call this effect a ‘baby brain’).
In any case, planning to come back to work often triggers many emotions and brings to life questions regarding our identity, self esteem, skill set, belonging.

Coming back to professional work after a long break means reinventing ourselves and face all the challenges we faced when getting a job for the first time.
Re-connecting with the outside world of people who are get paid money for the work they do, is an emotional and strategic exercise. It is also an interesting phenomena in our culture. Our society tends to assign more value and importance to all the jobs happening outside the family home. It can make parents (in most countries – in majority – mothers) feel as if they are contributing less to the community or indeed to the family (not providing any financial income). It can also feel as if all the outside world was moving forward and learning new things, when in the meantime, home makers were just a home makers, doing all the things which all the generations have done before.
The value of staying at home parents is for me unquestionable. They not only dedicate themselves to offer care and support to those they love. They also rise people, who are the future of our communities. They do have a connection with previous generations, by committing to the same task which our grand and great grandmothers did. They learn – everyday of their lives – about relationships, emotions, themselves, their loved ones. They reach their limits and they learn to overcome their weaknesses. They manage family life and they care for the quality of it – food, aesthetics, warmth. They work and learn a lot and they do not have ‘baby brains’.
I am picturing this heroic image of staying at home parents and I am not mentioning the other part – those who make this arrangement possible, by earning money and contributing in many different ways. I will dedicate them a different post.
It’s because I sometimes hear when mothers who are planning to go back to work express their feelings of dislocation, inadequacy, low self-esteem, lack of clear direction and confidence. I also share some of these feelings.

And I think they need a strong encouragement and appreciation. They should remind themselves, that when staying at home, they are not disappearing in a vacuum. They are important part of the world ‘out there’ and that they can come back to work or do whatever they plan to do, reacher for the experience of being a home makers. Yes, it requires focus, commitment and strategic planning. Yes, it’s challenging and can be intimidating. Yes, they need a reality check and see what short term and long term goals are within their reach (considering support, actual opportunities, financial situation, further childcare).

But experience of being a full time parent is a great starting point and strong asset. Even if it is not being portrayed like this often enough.

Parents: children will be impressed with your new careers! Good luck.
First published on xpose.ie

Photo: http://www.scarymommy.com

Confident Parents – new workshop for parents in Ireland

I am very happy to announce my parenting workshop – unique one day learning experience for all parents and parents to be.

Contact me, if you are interested in organising the workshop for group of parents.

CONFIDENT PARENTS

WORKING WITH THE EMOTIONS OF PARENTING

A one day workshop to help you understand and manage the emotions of parenting

Emotions in family life can overrule clear thinking and lead to conflict, difficult behaviour, distort decision making, and create unintentional hurt. Emotions are also the foundation for supportive, loving, creative and caring relationships. We therefore need to learn how our emotions impact on our parenting, in order to become more confident and make good parenting judgments.
Parenting is personal, and each child is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all parenting solutions. 

This workshop will help you discover and develop your own solutions to the challenges and joys of parenting.

What will happen in the workshop? 

SAFE environment: A small group will meet in a safe, relaxed, encouraging and non-judgemental setting

SPACE will be created to allow you to share valuable experience, discussion and to practice new skills

INFORMATION for better understanding of your personal and family dynamics will be shared in the group

Who is leading this workshop?

Facilitated by Agata Western (MA, member of The Psychological Society of Ireland): psychologist, experienced certified trainer, parenting blogger – contributor for Galway Advertiser, xpose.ie and herfamily.ie. Agata brings to the workshop her international professional expertise in group facilitation and training, and her personal experience of parenting two young children

After the workshop you are invited to become part of a supportive network of parents.

When:

5th June 2016 10am-5pm

Where:

Salthill Hotel Galway

Fee:

Special Early Bird rate 75 EUR before May 20th, 90 EUR full price, including refreshments and lunch. Further discounts may be available on request if needed


Who can come?  

We welcome all parents: single, couples, foster carers, adoptive parents

Places limited, for booking or more information contact Agata at: balancingparents@gmail.com or call: 089 40 62 126

Birthday Party? Do it as you please!

  
It’s my son’s birthday this month and as we have some friends who were born in January too, we are entering busy birthday party season. I am looking forward to it, although I am also familiar with all the uncertainties which can make an innocent children’s party stressful. Of course it’s about our children having great time and celebrating together. But it is also about being exposed as a parent to other parents, who as we know, are sometimes harsh judges of our choices (or maybe we only think they are?). It’ s normal to be preoccupied about being accepted by the group and it’s also natural that the group is expecting us to conform to its norms and standards of doing things. Unfortunately it’s also the case, that conformity kills creativity and even threatens our identity. Group norms can be insensible, irrational, stupid. We might disagree with them completely and obeying them might hurt us. And yet, we still go with the group flow, because we want to be accepted and we want the same for our children. 
This reminds me of an article I read in Irish Times about birthday party etiquette.

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/parenting/how-to-host-a-child-s-party-without-breaking-the-bank-or-your-kitchen-1.2416806

It answers in details what is an accepted way of buying presents, making guest list, serving sandwiches, preparing goody bags, etc.

It is the brightest example of social pressure which glorifies group obedience and doesn’t allow for any creativity. It fuels anxieties and supports the phantasy world of the group which benefits from all the members being exactly the same. The imaginary good coming from this homogeneous world would be lack of conflict, lack of confrontation, eternal peace and happiness. 

At first glance the article looks as a helpful guide through the common doubts I mentioned above. But when you read it through, you realise that it creates a strange world in which all parents and children want exactly the same environment to celebrate, eat and enjoy the same things and expect others to do what majority does. There is a real thread which can be read between the words: If you don’t obey the etiquette, you become an outcast, a weirdo, someone who doesn’t deserve to be part of the clan. 

Parents are surrounded by this kind of ‘do and do not’ guidelines, which are doing more harm than good, because they make us forget about the most obvious truth: we are adults, able to think independently and perfectly capable of making our own decisions regarding our children and ourselves.

It’s important to remember that the fear of being rejected is fuelled by the phantasy, that we all should be the same. We are all different and that’s all right. We can host the party which doesn’t obey any etiquette and most likely we will be appreciated for being authentic and honest. 

This post was First published on xpose.ie 

Image: http://www.aliexpress.com

New Year’s resolutions – guilt and two other risks of planning changes

  
Christmas is behind us, New Year is here: the protocol of our culture is expecting us to make some New Year’s resolutions. Time for making promises! 

“I am going to exercise more.’ 

‘I’m going to be more patient with my ageing mother.’

‘I’m going to cut down sugar/cigarettes/wine.’ 

‘I am going to take more time off.’

The beggining of new year encourages us to make summaries and gives hope for the fresh start. 

We live in the age of therapeutic discourse, where people are expected to work on themselves, redefine and reimagine their lives. Life coaches are speaking on the morning radio programs about making positive changes, introducing plans, and exercising daily. 

These days none of us is free from the expectation to grow and become better in whatever we do or whoever we are. It’s not only about us as individuals but also us fulfilling certain roles which matter to others. Speaking about parents: we as parents are always observed by the community and we are expected to do right and do better as mothers and fathers.

On one hand this feels right and encourages positive changes in the society. Many people change their habits: they eat and live healthier, they think more about the environment, their prejudices weaken.

On the other hand, this drive for becoming a New Version of Ourselves can cause some confusion, especially for parents.

Guilt

It’s okay to be good enough. To be a perfect parent is a phantasy and following it isn’t serving anyone. Our task is to be good enough parents and this means providing a loving and safe environment for children to grow and explore the world. We won’t get everything 100% right and what we really should learn is to accept this fact. Of course we want to grow as parents and do better on many fields, but this expectation often causes a strong sense of guilt, every time we do something ‘wrong’. This creates a viscous circle and a tension which definitely won’t help with getting things better next time. 

Goals

Setting the right goals can be tricky. There are many advisors who focus on altering behaviour. They encourage us to set the clear goal, make a strong commitment to some behavioural change, and they offer techniques to stay motivated and achieve this change. It can all work well, under the condition, that we are focusing on the right goal. Sometimes emotional issues are so difficult to deal with, that we replace them with some other tasks which stay at the level of behaviour and don’t reach the deeper, emotional issues. For example one of the partners in a relationship decides to run a marathon which is going to be very absorbing – cost a lot of time and commitment. This can be a genuine sportive activity but it might also be taken up to run away from the difficulties in relationship which won’t be addressed.

Personality

There are some things in ourselves which are unlikely to change, because they are part of who we are, of how we define ourselves. They might be causing problems in our relationships and they might be these very things which we want to get rid of when interacting with our children. Some of us would find themselves too controlling, too angry, too anxious, too authoritative – put here your own characteristic which makes you worried when relating to others. This might be an important part of your emotional life, which developed early in the childhood and it manifested itself throughout the life in many different ways. Don’t expect from yourself that you are going to make it disappear. Find a healthier way of expressing it. You might even make use of it! Being aware of this dynamic you can also help your children dealing with their emotional challenges. A great example of dealing with aggression is using it in sport activities. 

There is an event on Facebook, where people commit to read 52 books in 2016. Over 70,000 people signed up. My first thought when I saw it was, that they can’t be parents to small children, but then I realised I’m speaking for myself. There are parents out there having great reading plans and fair play to them.

I wish them enjoyable reading and a very good New Year to all of you.
Photo: http://www.theodesseyonline.com

Alcohol and ‘real man’

Two weeks ago I went to Tesco and saw early bird Christmas shoppers. One man pushing his trolley alongside mine had it literally filled with bottles of wine.
This picture was for me a prelude to the alcohol related issues presented by Irish media.

It unsurprisingly made me think of children and the impact our social role modelling has on them regarding alcohol consumption.

Last week I listened to heartbreaking story of Natasha Eddery – the daughter of Pat Eddery – national legendary jockey, who died at the age of 63. She spoke about her father’s drinking problem and how it impacted on her and her family.
Few days after this account, RTE1 invited an expert to the Morning programme and discussed alcohol consumption during Christmas and how difficult it becomes for families who have a man in the family drinking far too much.
I then looked at the statistics and reports published by national charity Alcohol Action Ireland and realised how scary they are. From alcohol related crimes, health issues, problems caused within families, to mental health and suicide. To quote only two of the issues reported: ‘One in four deaths of young men aged 15-39 in Ireland is due to alcohol’. ‘Seven in ten men in Ireland who drink are drinking in a way which is already causing damage to their health’.

Men are much more exposed to alcoholism and it starts very early in their lives.* In fact it starts in our heads where we create socially accepted images of what real man should and shouldn’t be doing. There is much going on in our society to tackle damaging images we produce about woman, LGBT communities, ethnic groups. I believe we are moving in a right direction of developing equal and inclusive society. But at the same time I can’t see much going on about changing traditional, well established expectations towards men and their way of expressing themselves and their emotions.
Since my son, who is nearly 12 months old, was born I heard comments, like: ‘proper boy’ and ‘that’s what boys do’, referring to his busyness or adventurous behaviour. And from the same people I also heard (talking about some common friend) that he drank beer like a proper man. These words are worrying me, because they are expressing socially accepted expectation towards man, and boys who will be pressurised to grow into ‘proper man’: you should drink and you should know how to drink. That’s what man do here.

It starts with small signals sent to small boys: naughty, busy, less patient and less attentive than girls – that’s only few examples of how boys are perceived and unconsciously encouraged to behave. Then it moves towards being strong, brave and ‘dealing with emotions like a man’. These boys have also a role models – their fathers, uncles, cousins – who in vast majority are frequent and intense alcohol consumers. It is so obvious, that people who don’t drink really stand out, often being perceived as strange.

These boys are then becoming teenagers who have alcohol easily available as the way of belonging to the social group, as an escape from difficulties, as a risk factor which becomes very attractive.

This is how our society prepares us to go through transition to adulthood.

We all know it, but at the same time we don’t do anything about it.

But there is a link between terrible statistics and the way we think about our boys.

It comes from generations and we can change it by challenging the unconscious images and expectations, which occupy our minds and slip out through simple and ‘innocent’ comments.
*Unfortunately I can’t say that woman are free from drinking problems. There is a growing number of woman catching up on alcoholism and binge drinking. Alcohol become unquestionable part of our lives, being marketed as the best partner for virtually every occasion. Nevertheless it is not traditionally a ‘woman’s thing’ and this post focuses on a tradition influencing men’s drinking habits. For more on women’s drinking visit:

http://alcoholireland.ie/facts/women-and-alcohol/

Click to access womenSubstanceAlcohol.pdf

Photo:

http://www.lchs.com.au/gambling-alcohol-drugs

Is Santa coming?

  

Last year my then 1,5 year daughter saw her first Santa and she was scared of him. I can’t blame her. All the children were waiting for a Santa, who was very late. Finally a man in training shoes came to the indoor activity centre, where we all gathered, went to the toilet to “change” and after a while through the toilet door came Santa, in that same previously seen training shoes covered with a piece of tape. He was a pathetic Santa. Presents provided by the parents were handed to the children in provisory grotto, placed in the darkest corner of the big hall. Santa’s helper was calling the name, child had to enter the grotto, get the present, get the photo and that was it. If you can sense lack of any engagement and imagination in this picture,you are right, there was nothing of this kind.

I came across some comments on social media from parents questioning the idea of Santa. Some are concerned about lying to children – why not telling the truth about who is bringing the presents – they ask. Why enter into the world of making up stories, which gets only complicated with time, when there are so many Santas in town and when child grows older and there is no elegant way to come clean.

Well, I was also asking myself these questions, especially seeing these all Santas walking around, who just can’t be believed and who should be ashamed to be putting up such a bad show!

And my husband helped me with an answer. If you don’t want to engage and enter the imaginative world, it’s not worth it. If Santa is going to be only about presents it’s not worth it either.  

Yet watching and helping your child enjoy the magic of Christmas is a delight for all, seeing their imagination unfold and entering their world of creativity is both fun and how children learn. Engaging with Santa is not one way traffic- it’s not about what Santa will bring for you, it’s how you engage with Santa. Writing letters, sending them up chimney’s, leaving out carrots for the reindeers, making up stories, reading books – this sparks the imagination and joy of Christmas. 

Children have amazing imagination. The world which they live differs a lot from the world most parents live. During the course of growing up, years of formal education, years of learning how to make mental shortcuts and think schematically, how to fit to mundane tasks and repetitive work, our imagination can become dormant. It then takes great effort to bring it to live and enter the world of pure imagination, where Santa brings presents, but also does many different fantastic things, and does them in style.

Santa is not all about a set up which parents invent and a child follows- it can easily become this way, when we are too focused on this presents-delivered aspect of “Santaism” which today is so driven by commercial advertising and puts unwanted pressures on parents and children.

To play it creatively we can reverse the roles and think of if differently: this is us who are joining the children in their world and we are the guests who need to become familiar with the rules and obey them.

When I get hesitant about the Santa, I just think about my daughter and realise that she’ll be happy to guide me in this play, if only I give her an initiative.

I intend to do so and I hope Santa will come also to me. I wish all of you the same.
first published on xpose.ie

Photo: http://www.rachelcharlton.org

Is there a problem?How to know that you should seek advice


A few weeks ago I published a post about falling into a trap of following developmental charts and how they can provoke unnecessary anxiety or rivalry. The post focused on external pressures which may prompt parents to seek advice or get worried without any clear reason from the child’s side.

I keep thinking about this matter and recall real stories when parents had a dilemma whether to seek an advice or not. They were realising that their child develops a bit slower then other children in certain area and each family was taking different position on this fact.

It is a very complex and delicate matter and it surely engages a lot of emotions, some of them might be not that visible at first.

There is no advice which would apply to all of these families. Each parent and each family need to do their homework and try to understand their particular case, then act to their children’s best interest. Sometimes parents don’t realise how anxious they are and this anxiety determines their action. And it can go both ways: they might become overwhelmed by it and won’t seek any advice or further diagnosis – being too afraid that something wrong is going on. Or just opposite – they might be running from specialist to specialist, searching for an answer which in fact lays just in front of their eyes. I witnessed the situation in which parents were preoccupied with their daughter being much smaller than other children. They were performing complicated tests looking for  hidden abnormalities (including very expensive genetic analysis). All turned out to be fine and the daughter lives a happy life, despite being very petite (exactly like her grandmother used to be).
Let’s imagine we have a dilemma whether to seek advice or not. We have the knowledge available to us – from books, magazines and online publications. We observe our children with our caring and loving eyes. We do seek evidences that all is going well. Then we spot some signal that might worry us – child’s motor or sensory development doesn’t seem to be as fast as other children. How can we know whether it is just the child’s nature and her own path of development or there is something we should have a closer look at?

What can help manage our own emotions to allow us to make the right decision?

  1. Use the right source of knowledge – child development studies are very advanced nowadays and we have access to knowledge which helps us to understand our children’s developmental issues. If looking at the growth or development charts or statistics of any kind: read them properly: take all range of results into account (see my post) rather than only average result which is inadequate in assessing our children’s’ progress.
  2. Avoid posting real worries on large forums for parents – as you get all sorts of contradicting information which will only make you more confused.
  3. Observe your child – learn to know and accept her/his own phase of development. Think about environment you provide for our child to grow. What skills development are you supporting the most? Don’t judge, just look at your lifestyle as your children’s world and try to understand how it impacts them.
  4. Sit with your emotions – what is it that you feel about the possible issue? Are you worried? Are you avoiding this feeling by pushing all bad thoughts away and not even considering any further actions? Are you criticising yourselves for being too cautious? What is really going on within and for yourself?
  5. Decide who you can trust, a friend, a partner, an experienced relative? Who can you talk to about this, who will give you an honest advice, not only about the issue, but who can also help you manage your anxiety.
  6. Be aware of external influences. We have some knowledge which might be helpful but might be intimidating at the same time. We have a social network which can be precious but can put unnecessary pressure on us – fuelling rivalry or anxieties. We have family which wants best for us and our child but can also pass on expectations which we are not comfortable with. It’s important to know these possible influences and learn to protect against them.

photo: http://www.child-development-guide.com

Child-led play – What I learnt from a parenting workshop

  

photo: http://www.evoke.ie
Have you ever heard of child-led play? When I first did, I thought I am doing this with my child every time we play! But now I know I am not. This week I attended parenting classes, run by Linsey McNelis, an accredited Play Therapist (www.playtherapygalway.com). It was interesting evening, with good bit of knowledge, completely non-judgemental atmosphere and ‘gentle’ exercises, which supported our reflection and practice of child-led play skills.
Some ideas really changed the way I think about my role in my children’s play and I’d like to share it here. It’s going to be quite prescriptive, as we were explicitly told how parents should behave and what should they say – adopting child-led play rules means following a particular scheme. For the certain amount of time you are setting the scene for child-led  play and within this time limit you are consciously trying to follow your child and follow the rules. 
I can’t speak for other parents but for me it turned out that I am not doing child-led play ‘instinctively’ that is, when I spontaneously play with my child, I am doing things which direct my child in certain way and which are focused on learning rather than play itself. It comes naturally; I don’t feel it’s dominating the room, but I know it’s there.

Schedule it
So my first discovery of the workshop was that it is important for the child and for our relationship to make sure that in our interaction there is a space for child-led play. Instead of going to classes for toddlers, or some other structured (and paid) activity, you can do your own ‘classes’ at home and it will be the one which your child invented.
Child is in control
Second discovery is that once we are in this space, the child is behind the steering wheel and her imagination is the limit (within safety limits of course). So what I learnt is that in this particular moment child doesn’t learn anything from me. We are in the world where ‘anything can be anything’ and that includes 4+1 equals 13 and a toy figurine is having all the colours on her sweater mixed up and cat pretends to be a cow. It is all right for a child to make mistakes and it’s parent’s rule number one not to stepping in with corrections, lectures on animal classifications and classes from logic and morals. It can be difficult to just leave the things out of order and sabotaging grandma’s efforts to get the numbers right, but at this present moment it is more important that the child doesn’t feel assessed and criticised in any way.
There will be time for practicing the colours later and there will be time to get the maths right.

Praising children in new ways
Third discovery is about praising children (in general, not only during child-led play). I love praising my children and my language is full of positive adjectives like: good, beautiful, great, fantastic – they are all apply to my wonderful child in general. I think it is great that children hear a lot of applause from parents and I am sure it motivates them to ‘do well’. But what I was missing out was different ways to engage in positive feedback with the child. The one I learnt this week is using more descriptions and concrete comments about child’s actions and achievements. I am practising this for the past two days and it doesn’t come easily. Sometimes it sounds unnaturally and weird. But few times I did came up with replacement for ‘good girl’ which was adequate to the situation and went something like: ‘you helped me with all the dishes, even the heaviest! The dishwasher is all empty and ready to use again’. I was impressed with our co-operation in the kitchen and by describing my daughter’s input, I supported her in learning about her achievements from actual outcomes of her actions. This (as we hope) is going to influence her self-esteem and let her built it on more internal rather than external motives. And this is believed to be more solid base for confidence and strong Ego.

I am a trainer of personal skills and before a break for becoming stay at home mum I led many workshops during which I was presenting participants with some ideas of how to change the way they give feedback, set boundaries, deal with the stress. I am reminding myself, that the real learning starts ‘at home’, when people actually decide to try out and practise new ways. I am doing this now and waiting for a feedback from children involved.

 

    

 

Sweets Banned From Schools Why people resist reasonable changes 

  
There are some obvious facts about human health, which are being ignored by many people, for many generations. We all know that sugar causes teeth decay and is a major factor in growing obesity. Yet, we are surrounded by sweets, organised in a way which tempts us to buy them on every step. Cheap fat and tons of sugar wrapped in an expensive brand, waiting for us, lined up next to checking points – always handy.
Many of us know that eating habits are developing in early childhood and are difficult to change later on. This why we all – as a society – should be interested in doing something about those millions of products, directed to children and being packed with fat and sugar even more than products directed to the rest of our population.

I’ve been always fascinated by the subject of individuals and societies making conscious changes about themselves. How does it happen? Is it possible? What are the ingredients of a real change? Why on Earth it is so difficult, even when the reason for change seems obvious?
This latest case from Polish schools is an example of powerful unconscious forces, which work collectively against the change. 
 Starting from September, Polish government banned unhealthy food from school shops and canteens. I can’t see more reasonable decision and I am pleased, that authorities are able to take an ethical stance and take a lead in changing school environment into a healthier place. The message is clear: ‘We are responsible for what happens at schools. We know that unhealthy food is bad for our children, so we can’t allow it on our ground. We do what we believe it’s right and we expect other adults to do the same’.

It’s perfectly understandable that policy makers don’t want to collude with the system which doesn’t care about children’s health and wants more profit from selling unhealthy food.
Resistance to change came from many angles:
– Polish Employees Association takes it as an attack on small businesses 
– Social media circulate the jokes about chocolate bars dealers in schools. These posts are presented by people working in education sector and by parents

– Shops surrounding schools are packed with children during breaks. Shelves with unhealthy food get empty

– Children bring their own salt and sugar to the canteens.

What worries me is that adults, who should be representing voice of reason, collude with this behaviour and support it. The cause of making government look stupid is much more important for them than the real chance to make a healthy change in their children’s lifestyle.
The change isn’t going to happen if all parties don’t engage with it. Children have their right to oppose the change and laugh at it, but the role of parents and teachers is to distance from this reactive laughter and set an example for positive outcomes which will be attractive enough to follow.
It’s important to realise that our resistance to change has it’s unconscious side. 

Consciously, people bring to the table various ‘rational’ reasons for not wanting to obey new rules: they would be saying it’s bad for small businesses, it’s a violation of freedom of choice, it’s pointless in a world where you can buy sweets around the corner anyway, it’s badly implemented.

But what brings these arguments to live is an unconscious dynamic of our emotions. To really engage with change we would have to become aware that:

– we are in denial: we emotionally cut off ourselves from health warnings. Simply speaking, we don’t want to hear it and act accordingly

– we regress: we employ our ‘child within’ to fight a reasonable ‘adult voice’.

Introducing healthy eating habits is a task for policy makers, local businesses, people working with children, parents and of course children themselves.

Each of us can start by reviewing our attitude towards change itself. We need to focus on what’s positive in the idea, even if it is implemented by a government we don’t particularly like.      
   

photo: sqworl.com

Coming back to school – why it is an emotional experience

  
Children are soon going to go back to school after two months of holiday. For some it was time filled with pleasures, alarm free waking up, visits to families and exciting adventures. For others it was bitter – sweet mixture of school and task free time, but also time spent alone, while friends left town and parents were mostly working. There are also children who had a horrible time being off school, because it meant for them time of no care, no break from stressful family dynamics, no structure to hold on to. It’s certain that children coming back to school have very different experience of holiday and very diverse expectations about what is to come. This can create emotionally difficult situations and it gets more challenging when it soon becomes clear that there is no time for proper adjustment. A demand to get to work kicks on very quickly. Structure of classes, every day routines, homework – this all comes together as a reality so different to what most children experienced during the summer. 

While some children will be excited about seeing friends and buying new school equipment, others might feel anxious about coming back to peers who create challenging pressure to fit in, or about being embarrassed to see their parents struggling to get money for necessities.    
At school, among other children and observed by adults – parents and teachers, students are exposed and there is nowhere to hide.
For the above reasons, and many others, end of holiday and beginning of school is emotionally challenging situation. Even if children mostly look forward to starting the learning, it is still an important transition and this always creates some level of anxiety.
What is our adult and parents role in this process? 

1. Understanding our children 

We need to help the children to understand what is going on for them. Our role is to provide a safe environment for our child to express emotions and to find a space within ourselves to contain the difficult ones. This means being careful observers. If we see our child acting out and not being themselves, it’s worth to try and find the meaning of it.

2. Knowing ourselves 

We should know how we feel about starting a new school year. If we get anxious about getting back to school routine, we should be aware of it and accept our not so positive feelings. If we are afraid of how our child is going to deal with difficulties this year, we have to separate our feelings from child’s feelings and make sure we deal with our own emotions, instead of projecting them onto the child.  

3. Being sensitive to other children’s issues.

As I mentioned before, some children are coming back to school with very heavy emotional baggage. They most likely aren’t able to maturely express and verbalise difficult emotions. They instead might be acting them out, getting rid of tensions by getting into fights, rebelling against teachers, etc. They might also have difficulty with focusing on tasks and conforming to the school’s norms.Trying to understand these children and not just reacting to their behaviour is an important task for all of us – parents and teachers. We are part of a wider community and there is a risk that instead of dealing with our own problems, we will see the troubled children as the only ones who have problems and they will soon become scape goats.

Teachers and parents should be sensitive to diversity of experience and acknowledge that for some, coming back to school might be a real struggle and for some a rescue – when the structure provides a safety net that may be missing at home.  
In short, it’s time to be awake and ready to take in and work through children’s emotions. 
I wish you all that it comes together with real joy of starting something new and exciting.  
* photo from https://familymattersmallorca.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/primary_school_children_540x299.jpg