The Days Are Long But The Years Are Short

It is often said that “the days are long but the years are short,” and that is certainly the case with all ages and stages of childhood.  When your child was born, perhaps you could not fathom getting a good night’s rest ever again.  And that first fever?  It felt like the end of the world.  And then all of a sudden, you’re in the preschool years, wondering if your child is eating enough lunch, sitting on the carpet nicely, making friends, and sharing toys appropriately.  Then comes the academic worry - did s/he study enough for that Friday test?  Will s/he get into a good high school?  And before you know it, you are registering for driver’s ed and preparing for your tiny baby to leave the nest.

There are highs and lows at every stage - challenges and successes, setbacks and celebrations.  Sometimes you need to take it one day at a time.

Transitioning to all day Preschool and Kindergarten

Starting school is a milestone in your child’s life. While you are excited for your little ones to meet new friends and experience all that school has to offer, you should expect a few bumps along the way. Here are a few suggestions that may help your child find success in these early days of school:
  • Allow your child time and space to make the transition. Your child may come home tired or grumpy, and they may not want to share their school experiences with you. Provide them the time and space they need to settle into these new routines.
  • Make sure your child is getting plenty of sleep. School can be exhausting, and an earlier bedtime may be just what your child needs to make it through their fun filled day.
  • Establish a routine for home and try to stick with it. Children thrive with structure and routines.
  • Limit screen time – a quiet book or blank paper and crayons are wonderful ways for your child to rest their mind after a busy day.
  • Practice self-help skills at home -- Can your child open their snack? Put on and zip or snap their coat?  Put on their shoes and pack up their bag? These skills will help your child have the confidence they need to move through their school day.
  • Communicate with your child’s teacher if you are concerned, as we are here to help you.
How Was Your Day?

Most parents are anxious to hear all about what their child has learned that day.  How many times have you picked up your child and as s/he is getting into the car with all of their belongings and projects, and before the door is closed, you utter - “How was your day?”  Of course you do it all the time – who doesn’t?  But maybe your child gives you a standard one word answer -- “Good.”  “Fine.”  “Okay.”

If you are looking for your child to expand on his/her answers, keep these tips in mind:
  • Consider timing and your child’s mood before delivering a rapid series of questions. Your child may need time to process their day before they begin to share details. For some children, this may be minutes; for others, a few hours. For some, at bathtime or just before bedtime is a calm time to be reflective.
  • Ask your questions in normal, back-and-forth conversation and follow your child’s lead. Try to avoid a formal, sit-down style debrief, which can feel like an interrogation. The idea is to just get your child talking about their day. Once they start talking, then ask follow-up questions if you’d like.
  • Try not to ask leading questions about a particular subject.  Keep in mind that your child wants to please you, so s/he is going to try to answer in the way s/he thinks you want to hear.
  • Consider these ways to get your child talking and thinking about their day:
    • Who did you play with today?
    • When were you the happiest today?
    • Who made you laugh today?
    • What is one thing you did today that was helpful?
    • How were you kind today?
    • What’s the hardest thing you did today?
    • When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
    • Can you show me or tell me something new you tried / learned today?
    • What rule was hardest to follow today?
    • What mistake did you make today that you’d like to re-do?
    • What was the best part of your day?
  • And finally, asking “What are you looking forward to tomorrow?” can sometimes turn a dreary mood into a positive outlook and fresh start for the next day.
Older Kids, Newer Approaches

In Middle School, it is hoped that you will see some early signs of separation from your child.  The thought of this can make parents a bit sad or fearful, but it is truly what s/he needs to be doing at this age! 

Asking some of the excellent questions cited above can elicit brief responses, at best, serious prickliness at worst. This is the age when your early adolescent is developing “agency,” the ability to see that they are in control of how they act and respond, that they are neither helpless nor passive observers in their own lives.What may feel to you like being shut out may, in fact, be your child working to take on more ownership of those parts of his or her life that are separate from yours.  

How can you support this important step toward independence, while still keeping those all-important lines of communication open? Here are a few ideas: 
  • It may seem odd, but talking about your own experiences -- good and bad -- as a middle schooler can prompt rich conversations. By the same token, telling your son or daughter about a recent frustration or dilemma you’ve addressed can allow you to model your own sense of agency. And by the way -- they are listening to you! 
  • Learn and use some of these phrases: “It’s your call.” “What do you want to do about this?” “That’s going to take some thinking.” And my personal favorite, “Hmmm…” Remember, they know your values and expectations by this time; it’s putting them into play that takes practice. 
  • It’s a cliche, but let them make (safe) mistakes, even fail. From a brain development standpoint, that is truly how learning occurs. When parents work harder than their kids to clear challenges out of the way or solve problems, children become weaker, not stronger.  
  • Listen. Adults need to spend a lot of time not talking when in conversation with early adolescents. Avoid interrupting, and pay close attention. Often, just allowing your child to talk about a problem or issue helps him/her to clarify things. 
Regardless of your child’s age, keep in mind that we are all works in progress. Your child has never been at this particular stage before, and you have never parented him/her at this stage, either. Share your child’s excitement for the beginning of the school year, encourage them to try new things, and be ready to offer some extra support during the back-to-school transition. Finally, because “the years are short,” never let a day go by without telling your child that s/he is loved. 

Molly Levis
Early Childhood Division Head

Ashleigh Wilkes
Lower School Division Head

Devin Wootton
Middle School Division Head/Assistant Head of School
Harford Day is the only PK3 to Grade 8 independent school in Harford County accredited by AIMS (Association of Independent Maryland/DC Schools) and a member of NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools).
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