How can I make it easier for a little schoolboy to be alone in the afternoons – are there any ways to practice solitude?
Starting school is usually an important change for the whole family, a milestone in life. Many parents are worried and guilty about their first-graders spending their afternoons alone. It is a pity that our society is not built with the best interests of the child in this regard. Fortunately, the parent of a child starting school is entitled to partial parental leave. However, not all families have access to this option.
The advice in my article is suitable for all school children, including older children returning to school in the fall. Also, apply the instructions to those mornings when the child must be able to leave school independently.
First, consider whether loneliness is necessary. Could someone close to the child, neighbours, parents of classmates take care of the child even part of the time? Explore the opportunities offered by school, municipality and hobbies.
Does the child have friends with whom to share mornings or afternoons as agreed? The play club can initially be agreed between the parents before the child enters into their friendships at school. If the child has older siblings, oblige them to be home at least in the early days.
Could the duration of solitude be shortened even on some days? Enable any working time slips and holidays.
The school trip is worth practising carefully several times. Get your child to school for the first few days. Many employers understand coming to work for such an important reason. You can try to arrange a joint school trip with a sibling, neighbour, or classmate.
Be on the phone. If you can’t be yourself, arrange for someone your child can call if needed. Call the child yourself in the morning and afternoon so he knows you think of him. Be patient with calls that seem idle; it can be a way for a child to seek refuge.
Make breakfast or snack for your child. The food put on by the parent gives a sense of security and reminds of the parent’s care. A little surprise treat can comfort you comfortably.
Divide the day into pieces to make the time feel shorter. Even set alarms on your alarm clock or cell phone: going to school, snack, homework, calling grandma.
Go home from work. First, spend as little time as possible on daily chores so you can be with your child. You may have to give up your hobbies for a while.
As soon as you get home, pay attention to the child first. Cheers happily, even if your workday has been tight! Always ask how the afternoon went. How did it feel to be home without parents? Rarely does a first grader respond very broadly, but it is important to give the child a chance to tell about their moods.
Practice shorter periods of solitude in the weeks before. However, don’t use hardship, but “refuel” your child with safety and presence so that he or she can better end your absence. Don’t demand to get big in an instant! “Learning independence” occurs precisely through gaining security; not by forcing the child to cope alone.
It is common for a child to initially express his or her longing with Maris, bad mood, entanglement, withdrawal, defiance, or restlessness. Sometimes, on the other hand, the child suddenly seems to have become independent, “grown into a schoolboy overnight”. Then he may react with a sense of abandonment, as if by rejecting parent care ( “I’m already so big that I do not need all the mother”).
If you find your child reacting to school, try to pamper and pay more attention to him. Tell me how you think of him, even if you are divorced. Talk to the teacher: the child may behave awkwardly at school as well. It is a pity if a child’s schooling “gets ruined” because of misinterpreted symptoms.
Starting school is – despite any worries – usually a nice thing! The majority of children cope well with it. Organize your afternoons as safe as you can and then stop worrying. Excessive worry and anointing only increase a child’s insecurity. Happy school year to the whole family!
Janna Rantala is a specialist in child psychiatry and a mother of young children. She has extensive work experience in children and family issues – from baby to teenagers. She has also worked as an adult psychiatrist, counselling and school physician, and educator. She is currently studying to be a family psychotherapist.