Please be kind and gentle to the children!
Please, if your child is screaming and clinging to you when you drop to him or her off at pre-school or school, don’t shout at them!
There is a reason that a child screams and you screaming back at them, or losing your temper or getting cross or, even worse, threatening them, is not going to help, its just going to make their experience traumatic
There is a reason that a child screams and clings to you when you try to leave them at pre-school or school. They’re scared! You’re putting them in the unknown, separating them from you, and they are rightly anxious and in need of your support and love, not your harsh words!
They trust you, you’re their stability and here you are, handing them over, into a situation, and with people, with whom they have no trust whatsoever. Who wouldn’t be scared?!
Having had a child of my own suffer with separation anxiety both at pre-school and school, I know only too well how distressing it is for both parent and child, but I also know deep in my heart that losing it with them (or telling them you are going to lose it with them, as I heard one mother tell her distressed and screaming son in the playground at school drop off this morning) is not going to solve the problem. All it is going to do is harden your child to this world, scar their heart and harm their soul.
Why is it that adults feel that they can impose their will over their children, and do so with harsh words and brute force? To me, this is all that is wrong in this world. That even as parents we can’t just be kind and gentle to those we love the most and are meant to be looking after, and caring for, in this world.
Listen to your child. Why is he or she screaming? Take a moment to think which of their needs is not being met. What is it that they are trying to tell you? Sure, it can be extremely confronting to consider the manner in which your actions might have added to your child’s distress at being separated from you in the first place (have you been giving them enough attention and attending to their emotional needs, for example), but better to do this than just yell at them as if it is all their fault (they’re children!).
There is such a pressure in this world to conform to society’s expectations, and to promote this need for separation as if that is a good thing. What’s good about separating new-born babies from their mothers immediately following birth and popping them in plastic boxes albeit by your hospital bed, or in cots in another room all on their own at home, for example? Why the need to stop breastfeeding babies simply because of working commitments or societal norms, whether the little thing is ready or not.
On it goes, the pressure to get your child sleeping through the night so that you ignore their cries and let them, ‘cry it out’ as if that’s a good thing, imposing your will over them, when all their little hearts want is some comfort in the middle of the night, when it’s dark and they have woken scared, or perhaps hungry, and are desperate for another heart to be held against. But no, you ignore their cries because that is what you are meant to do because other member of society say so, to get a good night’s sleep, and they will adapt won’t they?
Yes, they will, but a little bit of their soul is likely to have withered in the process, as another of their needs is not met. Their heart will bear the burden too, still craving that heart-to-heart contact, a compassion – will they one day find that comfort that they sought in the when they were a helpless baby? We can only hope that that’s the case, that they consider themselves worthy of the love that their parents neglected to give them in the middle of the night, or when they were scared about going to pre-school or school and were shouted at instead.
I’m certainly not perfect and I am constantly learning how to be a gentler and kinder and more heart-led mother. Parenthood is not easy. My youngest is a few months away from turning three, and he is testing all the boundaries and is constantly doing rather naughty things. He still wakes in the night, at least once, and he likes to lie on my chest given the choice, so sleep is not something that we get a huge amount of, still, in this household.
But I feel it is worth this short-term sleep deprivation, because at least he knows that I am there for him when he needs me in the night. And the breastfeeding too continues until he is ready to stop, his immune system benefiting by each passing month. Both are not the norm, and people do think that we are crazy to put up with all the night time waking’s and heaven forbid that I might attempt to breastfeed my almost-three-year-old in public – it’s totally out of most people’s comfort zone.
Last year, during that first term, my eldest son cried most mornings as I dropped him to school, and it was all I could do to leave him in the classroom. Fortunately, the teachers were really compassionate and I was welcomed to stay as long as I needed, until I felt that he was settled – none of the ‘leave him crying and screaming and just run’ approach of the pre-school we initially chose and thankfully had the sense to stop fairly soon afterwards, albeit much of the damage had been done (why did I not trust my intuition and leave with him?! Oh yes, because every one told me that this was normal. Normal? It’s a crazy world we live in).
Sure, my life has had to change considerably. I recognised that I hadn’t been there for him as much as he needed, that I hadn’t been meeting his emotional needs. I had been too busy working, too busy trying to achieve. So I gave up one of my jobs, which also meant giving up our financial security as well as a (false as it turns out) sense of identity. It was a big deal for me at the time, but I haven’t regretted it since.
Admittedly it took some time to adapt to all the seemingly endless trips to and fro from school, so that the day passes so quickly and very little else gets done in the interim (I’ve just taken a deep breath as we get back into the routine this term). But you do what you do, don’t you, for your children, for the next generation? You find a way. A kind way. One that you hope doesn’t damage them in the long-term, or give them the impression that their needs don’t matter.
This is even more important if you are parenting one of the wave of sensitive children who have come in to this world in the last ten years or so. True gifts to the world they are, because they don’t fit in, they’re not meant to fit in, because they are going to show us another way to live, a more conscious, calm and peaceful way to live, if we let them guide us, rather that feeling we need to knock their sensitivity out of them. If you have a sensitive child then you need to nurture him or her, and their need for quiet space, meet them rather than expecting them to change to meet your expectations of what their life should look like.
For us, the changes to the way we lived, me prioritising my eldest son’s needs, seemed to work. By the end of the school year, he had settled and made one really good friend, who is a regular visitor at our house these days. He made other friends too and was OK about being separated from me, because he knew I was always there for him, that I had managed to find a way to make myself available to him. I’m grateful to his teachers too, for respecting and addressing his individual needs and doing all they could to help him settle.
Our children learn from us, and unless we can find a way to interact with them that doesn’t involve yelling at them when they do something that we don’t want them to do (like making a scene when they don’t want to go to school), then they’ll think that it’s OK to shout at, or threaten others if they don’t do what they want either. And on it goes from one generation to the next. So that this world never changes. More hurt hearts and people searching for their souls, lost and disillusioned, wondering where it all went wrong.
This is our responsibility as human beings and as parents especially, to make the difference, to make this world a kinder and gentler and more compassionate place to live, and this has to start with how we not only treat ourselves, but equally as important, how we treat our children.
We don’t have to do things the way society expects us to do things, if that way doesn’t work for us, doesn’t have a heart, especially. Let’s face it, does this look like a happy society in which we are currently living? The rising anxiety and depression rates certainly don’t support this being a thriving society, to say nothing of the greed and quest for material wealth which is leading to exploitation of Mother Earth. No, we’re not thriving as a humanity and something will need to change.
So if your child is having a hard time settling into pre-school or school, please don’t think that you have to act a certain way. That it needs to look a certain way. Please be gentle and kind and loving. Please don’t shout at them. Please try and find out what is bothering them and work together with the teachers and carers to find a way so that they may settle gently. Make sure you’re heard – if it doesn’t feel right, don’t leave them - and listen to your children.
And when your child wakes in the night needing comforting, please do go and give them your heart to rest their head upon. We need more awakened hearts in this world.