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First School Day Emotions

Auburn City School kids are all out the door today and Opelika residents are ahead of the curve having started last week!

That means ---- our turn!!! Preschoolers come next!

A new school year is always full of mixed emotions: excitement and fear, joy and anxiety, even sadness filled with anticipation. And it's OK to feel ALL of those things at the same time! We can only imagine how confusing that must be for a preschooler who has yet to learn not only how to distinguish among the variety of emotions, but also what to call them. Being "emotionally aware" is not an automatic skill or involuntary action. Much like tying your shoes or reading a paragraph - someone (and in most cases, MANY someone's) must mindfully teach us to be an emotionally aware person.

As parents, what we can do for our youngest ones is to help label those feelings in the moment: "I am sorry you are upset. Sam took the toy from you and that must make you feel very angry"...or "I see that big smile on your face. You seem very happy to be swinging on the playground ." It is very important to not tell them how they feel, rather give them a vocabulary word or two that might help express themselves. So that the next time they give you a serious octopus hug, they might say "I'm so happy to see you!" or even if they're mid-tantrum, instead of hearing only "NO!", they might say "No! I am sad to have to leave!" What you're doing is giving your child the foundation that will improve their communication skills for their needs and wants.

What preschool parents can do at this time of mixed emotions is to remain positive. Word everything you say about going to school in a positive manner! Talk about the fun that will be had - the art, the snack, the music, the books, the outside play. If you're scared about school (which is OK!) your child will pick up on it. So just seize the assumption that all will be well and run with that! Do not use the word IF - they will know there just might be some wiggle room to this "thing called school"! Use the word WHEN instead. For example, "I will pick you up WHEN school is over and you can tell me all about the fun you had!" instead of "IF you don't cry at school, then we can play at the park after lunch."

Hear the difference?

It's expressed in your confidence and your communication skills.

In just under two weeks, you'll be dropping off your babies with us and giving to us the honor and gift of your trust and love! If a child is upset when school starts, we "love on them" in a manner that makes them most comfortable. Some want to be held, some don't even want to be touched. Some want to cry quietly and stand off by themselves, others just want to cry loudly and be heard. Regardless of their manner of expression, each child deserves the best experience possible while at school. What we do is acknowledge their feelings and try to label them. Reassure them that "It is OK to feel sad/angry/scared" but then we shift the focus to what is happening in the classroom. And let them know that we really want them to have fun and "...won't it be great to tell Mommy/Daddy/Nana/Grandpa about what you did at school today."

As adults, we are fully capable of recognizing and acknowledging that we may lack super- confidence about "this thing called school." But don't let your preschooler know it! They need the confidence and positivism that we muster, even while we recognize that they may have mixed emotions. It's OK to feel all of those things, but the main goal is to focus on having the best day possible at school. It's OK to be scared, it's even OK to cry. WHEN the day is done, when all the fun has been had, then they can share that with you at pick-up time!

It's our job as emotionally aware people to demonstrate to and to teach these GraceKids how to go about balancing those emotions while still doing what "you're supposed to". Which, in their case, is just to have a fun and learn while they play!

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