Our kids are at an age now where back to school after the summer holidays is a pretty standard affair. There aren’t too many issues that arise and as parents we have now experienced every year level at least once, so have some idea about what is ahead of us.
There is however one issue that still inflicts us every summer and while it is still a little painful for us, I have managed to come up with some strategies to cope with it as best we can and that is the new school shoe saga. I share below our strategies for this and other back to school sagas below and hope they might help you if you are experiencing them too!
My new school shoes feel weird
Our youngest has a very light build. He spends all summer either bare foot or in thongs and only occasionally wears his runners. I brace myself every year for the new school shoe shopping expedition. Part of his school uniform requires him to wear traditional black school shoes. I have learnt over the years to do the youngest child with only his next older brother when shoe shopping, as the less people around him the better and I need to have plenty of time so I can work with him on the best shoe for him.
I make sure he tries on at least two different styles of shoes so he has something to compare with, even he is adamant he likes only particular pair. He will do his best to keep his emotions in check at the store but you can see instantly he hates all the shoes he has tried on. It becomes a matter of choosing the pair he hates the least.
We have discussions before we go shopping about how the shoes will feel uncomfortable at first, because they are new and a little stiff, but after a little bit of wearing they will be as comfortable as his last pair. When he has the shoes on his feet at the store and he is pointing out where they feel uncomfortable, I remind him again, that they will take a little time to get used to.
I allow him to have final say on the pair he chooses and we take them home, both knowing that the new school saga has only just started. The next day before he has his technology time for the day I ask him to put his new school shoes on. I allow him to choose whether he wears them for 15, 30 or 45 minutes. He naturally chooses 15 minutes the first day. He puts them on and he tells me straight away how weird they feel and he is miserable. I remind him that he only has to keep them on for 15 minutes and then he can take them off. If we are lucky he will not notice 15 minutes has passed and while he is distracted on the iPad, he will wear the shoes for much longer.
We go through this process every day or other day if we are out and eventually build up so he has his shoes on for at least an hour at a time, some of which will include walking around time. We need at least 10 days for this process and if I am lucky by the time we hit the first day back at school, the shoes are no longer feeling weird. I wish I could say that I have had success every year, but that is not the case.
We have had emotions spilling over on the morning of the first day back to school because they still feel weird. I explain that he has to wear them to school and they will better each day he wears them and get him to remember the same time last year. While not happy with the shoes, this is generally enough to get us out of the door and each day after that it gets easier.
My new top is scratchy
Another child really did not like the feeling of new tops. They would be “scratchy” and he would pull and complain about them. For a number of years, anytime he had new tops, I would wash them multiple times before he wore them to wash away the brand new feel to them. This worked a treat!
My shorts feel too big
Even though they are the exact same size as the shorts we wore last term, school shorts can often feel bigger because they are a very different style to the light weight and shorter board shorts the kids have been wearing. If they are in the first two years of school, getting them to wear them for an hour or so with their school shoes can help, with older kids though discussing with them why they feel too big can really help.
Showing them the size of the short and how the tag is faded so they know they are the same shorts can also work for the disbelievers who seem to think you have bought them new bigger shorts when they weren’t looking!
The night owls
Our 11 y ear old is a definite night owl. Even if he is in bed early, he doesn’t go to sleep and will lie awake. Over the holidays he inevitably ends us staying up later and getting up much much later than he would on a school morning. With the night owls I find waking them up gradually earlier at least five-seven days before they need to head back to school helps. Waking them earlier, ensuring they are physically active through out the day and then getting them off to bed closer and closer to their school bed time is an approach we have used that works. We will also use meditation as way to help quieten his mind so he can fall off to sleep quicker.
I don’t like my class
This has only really happened once in the 14 years of parenting school kids and it is a hard one to deal with. As parents our natural reaction is to want to fix problems for our kids, but to create independent and resilient kids, we cannot fight all their battles for them.
A very common reason for kids not liking their class is because they have been separated from their friends. Telling them they can see them at recess and lunchtime really doesn’t mean much to them. All they can think about is all the time they won’t be with them.
Often kids just want to be listened to about how they feel, so I find empathising with them can really help. For example something along the lines of “It sounds like you feel sad about not being in the same class as your friends?”. Allow them to talk about how they feel without trying to make them feel better or fix the issue for them. Let them know it is normal to feel a little anxious about going into a class without their friends, but also let them know there will be other kids in the class just like them.
The most important thing I have found that I can do, is not get emotional with them on being without their friends and keeping a positive attitude about the class. This means especially not talking about the situation in a negative way – eg complaining to other parents about the class they are in within their hearing. It is much better to reframe it as an opportunity for them to make new friends and practice their wonderful social skills!