It’s January 2023 and I was all excited for my child to start grade 1 but at the same time worried, he is still mama’s little boy.
I was raised in the 90’s and my mom involved me in most decisions about my life such as choosing which school to attend, and that is one of the best things I remember from my childhood. This is the reason I also had my son with me when searching for a school for him. I have been doing this since he started pre-school. He goes to a school he likes.
We visited a couple of schools and he chose this one school and we registered. On the 1st day, as usual, a parent takes his/her child to school and so I did. And oh boy, when the teacher asked my boy to go to class he panicked and started crying. I should admit, I also wanted to cry.
You see, we spent the whole December holiday just me and him all day everyday and I think we just got a bit of separation anxiety. But I wore my adult face and spoke to my son and finally he agreed and went to class. He returned that day, according to him school was fine and the new school has “too many kids”.
On the Second day, the school bus came in the morning and he went to school. He came back with stories about school as usual and day two was okay.
On the third day, the boy refused to get on the school bus. Politely his dad asked the driver to leave him and that we will drop him at school that day. I took him to school, to my surprise when he got to school he waved goodbye and went straight to class.
We finished the week with no issues but to my surprise on Sunday evening when I told him it’s time to sleep as it’s school day tomorrow. He asked “mom why do I have to go to school everyday”; as expected I explained all the good things for a grade 1 kid “but I don’t want to go” he said.
School refusal became serious at this point, and my son kept on crying over any possible scenario I gave him about why he should go to school. I always ask about his day in school when he comes back, so here I asked again what happened in school and nothing.
Then as we kept exploring why he does not want to go to school, I asked if he wanted me to take him back to the teacher from his previous school and he gladly agreed. This made me realize my boy could be having difficulties adjusting to a new environment.
As a mom, I was both worried and confused and I had to find a solution. Monday came, we got ready, the school bus came and he left without showing any resistance. When I asked him about his day when he returned, he told me again “I do not want to go to school everyday”.
And our conversation began again just to understand his position. I learned that he has yet to make friends and he could not tell me any name of his classmate. I explained to him again why he has to go to school, but this time I asked him when he goes to school tomorrow to ask one friend his/her name.
On Tuesday the school bus came, and the teacher told me about his breakdown the day before and that he kept saying “I want to go to my mommy”. He got to the bus and upon saying goodbye he started crying.
Quickly I thought about adopting a reward system, so I told him to go and when he came back I would make him his favorite snack and he agreed and went. Deep down I knew forcing my child to go to school will most likely cause him to hate school or just adopt to silence something I want to avoid.
He came back that day, and to my surprise he was so excited and told me about how he has a friend who is his namesake and how he played basketball. He said mom when I played basketball, “I throw the ball and it goes up like ‘thiiiiis’ (showing me in slow motion) and comes down like ‘thiiiis’.
And he told me how he now has two teachers, one for numbers and one for sports etc. It was a relief to be honest seeing him all happy. But I knew I had to keep him motivated. So I made a deal with him,I knew from our daily conversation that he wanted a bow set toy and so I told him if he goes to school for one hundred days he will get a bow set. At this point, he agreed happily and he also promised never to cry again.
Honestly, it’s a relief as I see him adjusting, he now gets on the bus without even a frown. I also let him choose snacks he wants for school the next day. We also spend an hour a day going through his school books together in a fun way.
And now there are even more names of friends, I have lost count, to say the least. My takeaway from this experience is that kids adjusting to a new environment might be a rollercoaster but it passes. The most important thing is for us parents to learn how their minds work, and what they struggle with but more important is to keep conversation going, when they resort to silence, it’s trouble.
Jackline Shayo is a proud mom, part-time self-crowned chef, and experienced office manager who served in various positions in the private sector and non-government organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo Initiative. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further.