As the new school year begins, we spoke with the parenting coach Ayelet Shvil - a personal consultant, and the creator of a digital guidance program for peaceful parenting. We discussed issues related to the adaptation challenges and ways to make the transition from kindergarten to the new environment of first grade much smoother.
What general guidelines can you provide for parents as they approach the new year?
"The first rule is to get excited with the children, to rejoice with them, and to look forward to the good. You know, expectations are important, and there's no need to expect crying. People often prepare parents for crying, but why prepare for crying? First of all, expect it to be calm, peaceful, and joyful, and to be happy for the child who is starting something new.
"We, as parents, influence everything. Children pick up on our emotions, our concerns, our fears, and our expectations. First and foremost, a parent needs to examine their expectations. The moment a parent expects the child to cry, it's usually what they transmit, and it's what will happen."
If a child is having a hard time, what do you do in such a situation?
"Even as adults, sometimes new beginnings can be challenging for us. We need someone to listen to us and someone to share with. While children may be small in stature, they are human beings like us, and their aspiration is for connection and social interaction. If a child tells me that they had a hard time, I will talk to them, without pressure and without wanting to calm them down for tomorrow, just like a friend who shares a difficult day they had."
Ayelet also says, "We want so much for them to be happy, but sometimes it's not in their best interest. Even if the child finds it a bit difficult at first, it's natural! Listen to the child's needs, hear them out, and don't try to compensate for the difficulty they are experiencing. If a mom expects the child to cry, and the child is genuinely crying, and the mom tries to make them happy with candy or ice cream, it will be difficult for the child to come home smiling the next day.
"As parents, we need to believe in their abilities. Children will experience difficulties in life, and when we believe in them, they grow from it and discover that they have the strength to cope with adversity."
What tools do you as a parenting coach believe need to be given to a child?
"I wouldn't define it as a need. I want the parent to be authentic with themselves, to look inside and ask themselves what they are afraid of. Are you, as a parent, afraid that your child won't have friends? That they won't fit into the framework? Try to calm these fears. The desire to be a protective parent is not always effective, and the good practice is actually to listen to the child, to let them experience, to let them express their difficulties, and not to distort or alter reality for them.
"We're not sending the child to the lions' den. If we've chosen a specific framework for them, I believe that parents have checked it and checked the teacher as well. If as a parent, I sit next to the teacher and tell her, 'Move him to another place,' 'Let him sit next to you,' and all of that, it creates a situation where we diminish the child's ability to cope."
Regarding our fears as parents, Ayelet says, "It's important to have a dialogue with ourselves and understand why we are afraid of what we're afraid of - 'I'm afraid my child won't have friends because I didn't have friends.' Just because you didn't have friends doesn't mean they won't either. The parent needs to ask, 'Why is this stressing or worrying me, and where does this fear come from?' It's not destiny; I can clarify with myself where the fear is coming from and deal with it.
"It's always important to remember that our goal is to raise children who will grow up to succeed and flourish. This won't happen by changing their environment or trying to mold it to them; it comes from a place of listening and, of course, not trying to change them. If there's a child who is shy and introverted, and I want them to be sociable, it doesn't always suit the child, and they may not necessarily meet my expectations."
When the child is already crying what do we do?
"First of all, it's okay to cry; nothing bad happens if a child cries. Give children that space. Don't try to change the child or the situation. Instead, truly listen to what's bothering them, ask them what they would like to happen, and simply empathize with the situation as if it were a friend's. This way, I won't go to sleep with a burden and walk around with a heavy feeling for days."
For parents who are experiencing this for the first time, how do you recommend dealing with it, especially since it often involves infants who can't express themselves?
"I had someone come to me for counseling and she told me that her daughter spends one day with her grandmother and one day with a caregiver because she's studying, and when she leaves her daughter with the caregiver, she cries, but with her grandmother, she's calm. When I asked her if her daughter sees her grandmother every day, she said no and that it's just a once-a-week meeting.
"When I asked her why she thought this was happening, she herself said, 'When I leave my daughter with her grandmother, I'm calm, and with the caregiver, I'm terribly anxious,' and the child feels it, she feels the mother's insecurity, and it affects her. A mother cannot work on her own. If the parent is not calm, the child feels it, and one needs to examine from which motives this anxiety or fear stems."