Wednesday, January 02, 2013

First week blues...

For many children and teenagers in Malaysia, this week is when they officially start their new school year. Like the rest of the country, we at Honey Bee have started, too, and like previous years, it is always a noisier affair over at taska compared to tadika, due to the younger age groups.

According to Mum, it has not been too bad this year. Other than one or two special characters, she considered the crying and separation anxiety that has been taking place pretty normal.

I am unsure of the 'first week' situation in other childcare centres and kindies in the area but here are some scenarios that we have experienced in our 20 years of operation:
  • Newcomers normally cry when they realise that their parents are not there with them. The crying is inevitable because this is the way they express their fear towards an entirely new environment with total strangers. I am not saying that all of them will cry but generally, it is normal to expect crying of different levels.
  • We have realised that for some of the children who seem well-adjusted and calm on the first day may return the next day totally different. Perhaps the first day was a trial and so the next day, they know what to predict and would react in a much stronger way. The crying, kicking, screaming and tantrums are usually more dramatic during the 2nd and 3rd days.
  • The anxiety and discomfort seemingly escalates because the child realises that freedom is lost. Unlike at home where they get to wake up at any time, eat and drink what and when they like, watch cartoon at any time, play outside when they feel like it, take a nap for as long as they want, and also have everything done for them (e.g. point to the shoes and the shoes automatically gets put on their feet by an adult), the situation is entirely different when they are with us. Not only do they have to learn to be independent, they have to learn to socialise with other people, children and adult alike. Instead of using physical actions, they learn to use their verbal expressions to communicate. They learn to obey rules and listen to instructions, they learn to play with others, take turns and share. They learn to follow a routine and to be disciplined. They learn that it is alright to make mistakes and that it is not alright to be rude and disrespectful.
  • Parents of newcomers are normally advised to prepare three or four extra sets of clothes (more sets for younger children), in case accidents happen. For example, for children who are newly toilet trained, due to the new environment, they may not make it in time to the toilet. Also, as the younger children are learning to eat and drink independently, they may dirty their clothes while eating and drinking.
  • It is also common for children to catch a flu or fever during this week because of the sudden and longer hours of exposure to the outside world (other children and bacteria alike), which prior to this, they have had no contact with. Some of them may also throw tantrums and not want to drink any water nor do they want to eat anything we offer. A combination of all these may result in children falling sick and may cause interrupted sleep at night.
Some suggestions we have, which may or may not be applicable to your own situation:
  • Have a heart of steel! (Kidding) But seriously, it helps to keep telling yourself that this is only a transition period for the family. The crying, screaming and what not will eventually stop. It will get easier to leave the house and things will go back to normal. Do not let your child's actions stop you from driving off. Be firm and stick to what you have told him/her: Mummy and Daddy are going to work now. We will come back after work so you have a lovely day here with your new friends and teachers. Love you. Give a little kiss and hug and go. Do not linger around.
  • Tell them exactly what will happen and why these things are happening: You are a big girl/boy now and because Mummy and Daddy have to work, you will go to a new place to play and learn with other girls and boys who can be your new friends. You will play games, sing songs, paint pictures, listen to stories and learn to eat like a big girl/boy. There will be aunties and jiejies there who are like teachers, who will help you to do all these things. You do not have to feel scared because they are friendly and helpful. Mummy and Daddy will come right after work so you have to eat, have your milk, have your nap and then play a little before you will see us again. Do not paint an overly perfect picture for your child. Do not tell your child that there are lots of toys to play with and that there are yummy things to eat. No, please do not do that because we are honest people, aren't we not now? Stick to your words, and your child will stick to theirs.
  • Trust us. This relationship between home and school is not going to work if you do not trust us. The whole point of you enrolling at our centre is because you agree with the why, what and how we do things and that you trust that we will deliver what we say we will. So, let us do our job properly for you to work with peace of mind. 
  • Voice any doubts or queries immediately. Do not sweep issues under the carpet because even the slightest of things will escalate into something major. If you found something unusual, ask us. If you felt that we could do a better job at something, inform us. However, we would appreciate that your opinions and questions are voiced and asked in a respectful and polite manner, as we have feelings, too. It is a very stressful environment that we are in, a childcare centre and kindergarten because we are in charge of so many young lives that are capable of doing unthinkable things at times. We are all trying our hardest to educate and care for your children to the best of our abilities, knowledge and training.
  • Every child develops at their own unique pace. This is not a competition to see whose child will stop crying first, whose child will start to count first, whose child will recite the alphabets first, whose child is more courageous and so on. Please do not feed your own ego to your children, as it is hard enough a job for them to find out their own individuality. Some children do not cry, some cry for a day, some for a week and yet others for months but they all end up fine. Have some confidence in your child and things will be fine.
Please bear in mind that these are entirely my own observations at our centre. You may have different experiences with your children and at different centres. The first weeks are always the hardest but when you get through them, everything else will fall into place, so jiayou everyone!

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