“I love you Milla, I will miss you when I am at school,” my eldest daughter Addi says as she hugs and kisses her sister before heading through the school gates at 8:45am. I literally couldn’t script this loving scene between my two girls and as their mother, it brings a smile and a sense of pride. “I created these girls,” I think to myself, giving myself a metaphorical pat on the back.
“How was your day?” I ask Addi at 3:45pm as we drive home but she doesn’t hear me because the bickering between her and Milla has already begun. “Don’t look at me,” she tells her sister. “You are not my friend.”
The remainder of our five-minute drive home (which felt like five hours) is filled with back and forth comments, yelling and squealing. It then usually ends with one of them crying because the other has upset them in some way. “I created these girls,” I think to myself, giving myself a metaphorical stern talking to.
The contrast between ‘morning Addi’ and ‘afternoon Addi’ is like seeing a super hero and their alter ego. Although there are still some glimpses of the same person underneath, there is also a very obvious difference in persona. Until Addi started Prep this year, I had not been witness to the ‘two sides of Addi’ and to be honest, it came as a bit of a shock.
And this change of attitude, ‘Prepitude’ as I like to refer to it, seems to be quite widespread and despite my initial concern, it is also apparently normal (phew).
Behaviour such as attitude changes (being snappy and rude), fighting and defiance are all typical ways in which this behaviour can be exhibited. And these are all behaviours I have witnessed first-hand.
Other changes such as behavioural regressions can also occur in some children and may include bed wetting, pants wetting, clinginess, baby talk and separation anxiety.
So why does this happen? As obvious as it seems when someone tells you after the fact, it is just because starting school is a massive step for a child. It is long, it has lots of different rules and routines, it requires a lot of concentration and brain power, it can be uncomfortable (at least at the beginning), the physical environment is different and new and so are many of the people. Even the uniform is something new and different which for some children can take some getting used to.
At school most kids are on their best behaviour, so once they get home and they are in a safe and familiar environment and with their family, it can all come unravelled. In other words, our kids lose their marbles because they feel safe with us (aren’t we lucky?).
But the good news is there are some things I have found that can help (most of the time):
Kids are always hungry when they get home from school. Even as well behaving adults we know what it is like when we are hungry… or ‘hangry’. So get that blood sugar up, fill up those tummies and bring some happiness back via their taste buds. Sometimes I even bring something in the car so Addi can fill her tummy up on route home. This also saves bickering between her and Milla because her mouth is literally full.
Hold off on the questions.
For them it is time to switch off and relax. So us asking five million questions at pick-up can be a bit overwhelming and frustrating when all they want to do is go home. I have found that waiting until post-after school snack time for the questions about their day is ideal. It also assists with receiving more in-depth responses as well, rather than just the “good” reply when asking how their day was.
Let them have some time to just unwind.
They have been non-stop from the time they woke up until the time you picked them up from school so allowing them a bit of time and space to watch TV, play with some toys or go outside can be the best thing for them (and you). It is also great to get them out of their school clothes and shoes and into something more comfortable. This is just as much about physical comfort as mental comfort. In their minds, it can signal that it is time to relax and makes a huge difference.
For all the parents out there, that have experienced ‘Prepitude’ or perhaps those who might have the honour coming up soon, know you are not alone. I hope some of these road-tested tips can help you even... a little.
Does your child have 'Prepitude’? How do you deal with it? Tell us in the comments section below.