“I don’t wanna talk about my day!”
Oh what a nice response when I ask my kindergartener how his day was.
Let’s try this again.
Me: “Your teacher said you had a great day, what did you do today?”
Kid: “I don’t remember.”
Ok this is going super well.
I don’t mind a quiet car ride. I get that my son might need downtime before he is ready to talk after a full day of school. But I do mind getting attitude. A fight brews between my kindergartner and preschooler in the backseat and I spend the drive home as a referee.
The kindergarten attitude escalates when we get home. Asking my son what is wrong gets me nowhere other than increasingly frustrated. I resort to consequences. No TV, taking away toys and time outs all happened in just the first week of kindergarten.
Each night as we were cuddling in his bed, he would tell me how sorry he was. I would tear up, tell him how awesome he is and that tomorrow would be a better day.
But then tomorrow came and it wasn’t a better day.
Added to the mix, his teacher had informed us of a couple of incidences that happened at school where he had made poor decisions. Pushing a kid one day and lying to his teacher about something on another day.
I was blaming myself, as moms often do. Ok, as moms always do.
I am blessed to be friends with the preschool director at my son’s school who is also a mom. We became friends last year when she was my son’s Pre-K teacher. I was crying (literally) to her one day the second week of school and she said something to me that is so simple but yet allowed me to breathe.
“Stephanie, this is just a transition phase. He did the same thing last year when Pre-K started. Remember?”
The truth was I had forgotten. But when I thought back to exactly a year ago, I realized she was right. I am not saying that this is some sort of excuse for poor behavior but I am saying it opened my eyes to understand why this might be happening. It also gave me hope that this too shall pass.
Some kids have a harder time transitioning than others. My son thrives on routine and even small changes can be difficult for him. Even though he is a now a year older than the last school year, the transition phase wasn’t necessarily easier. I reflected back to a year ago and some of the small yet impactful things I did to get us all past this transition stage. My hope is that each year he matures in age will mean the transition phase will be quicker. Time will tell.
Here are the few things that helped my son transition to change:
- I made one on one time a priority. It’s hard after a busy day sometimes to give that one on one time. Particularly if you have more than one child. Even 15 minutes per kid, however you can swing it, will remind your kid they are special and can start putting any school tension they may have at ease. I found this to be the one that works best for my son and that then feeds into him feeling more confident at school.
- I didn’t hound him with questions. Instead of 20 questions after school, we got in the routine of him sharing three things about his day…but not until dinner time. This gave him some space after school for him to process his day. If he wanted to share sooner, fabulous. If not, then we waited until the dinner table.
- I didn’t sugar coat the bad behavior. If your kid is school aged, you can communicate to them how it makes you feel and you can instill consequences. I can be sucker for tears but am realizing that is not getting me very far these days as my kids get older.
- I gave myself a break. At Back To School Night this year, my son’s teacher obviously sensed my stress. She looked at me and said, “he is fine, you are fine, everything is going to be fine.” Moms, sometimes we just need to breathe.
- I gave him a break. Being a kid can be hard. It takes energy for kids to choose good behavior sometimes. Not stomping their feet or pushing a kid are all good choices but can take a lot of mental restraint which can be exhausting for little ones.
- Let them burn off steam. If time and weather permits, I let my kids run around at the school park right after school.
- Let them zone out. Some might disagree but I let my kids watch 1-2 shows after school most days. They zone out, I get dinner started and then we, more often than not, all re-group and are civil to each other the rest of the evening.
- I used bribery. Judge away. But when my kid is at his worst, we will pack up his toys and then make him earn them back with good behavior. I will also use straight up bribery. “You want that toy? Give me 10 school days in a row of good behavior and it’s yours.” Later in my life I will write about the downfall of bribing my kids, I’m sure. For now, I am just getting by day by day.
Are transitions hard for your kids? What do you do to conquer it?