No matter what age a woman becomes a mum, no matter what her occupation or involvement was before this point, motherhood is the start of a new process of learning.
If I have to drive somewhere I have never been before, I Google the address, choose the route, check the time the trip will take and then plan when I need to leave home to arrive on time. This was very much the case when we had 7 little children who all needed to come along with me.
Each time we have travelled overseas I have spent time researching each town or city to find what is worth seeing, entry costs, where to get tickets, accommodation, how to get there...
I do this so that once there, things are organised, we know what to expect and have a plan.
When children go somewhere new, they have no idea what to expect because they have never been there.
~ going to the library for the first time
~ the first visit to the dental nurse
~ the first time going to the doctor or the hospital
~ first time going to the park, the supermarket or play group
~ first day at school .......
The younger the child, the more immature they are in their capacity to think and understand, so they tend to rely on cues and feeling they pick up as we arrive. Mum's apprehension, rowdy behaviour of others, a warm inclusive and relaxed atmosphere, distance and barriers, formality with awkwardness, uneasiness and tension. These scanty messages all say something to even the tiniest of children. They are then added into behaviour patterns they already know. This is how they begin their time in the new experience.
Older children work similarly, but also watch out for clues to see what other children are doing, then with nothing else to work with, tend to copy what is happening around them.
This initial experience may go well for some children and mums. It can also not go well, causing the child to be withdrawn, overly boisterous, uncontrolled or attempting to take control. In short, the situation doesn't go as you had hoped.
PREPARING BEFORE GOING
When There is Preparation Time :
1. Talk with the child about where you are going, what they will see there, why you are going there if appropriate. Point out the place as you drive past explaining that this is the library/where we will go to visit the Dental nurse...
2. Tell them how you feel about the place - a positive feel. This gives confidence to the child and gives them an open attitude to the place if they know mum really trusts this health professional, loves looking for books at the library, hears the storyteller is terrific.... Make them feel comfortable and eager to go there.
3. This point is so helpful for children once they are 3years and older - tell them what will happen and what to expect at the place. Talk about it as a story so they are keen to go, not like a list of instructions they must follow.
~ Library - there will be shelves of books, other people will be there reading and laptopping so we need to respect them and pass by quietly, we are heading to the story time area, where there will be many other children with adults all sitting on the floor, we will join them and find a place to sit, as the story teller reads we will listen, when everyone sings and jumps about we can join in too, we can look at books and borrow some afterwards.....
~ Dental nurse - we will go to the school we drive past/Tom our neighbour goes to.., we are going to the dental clinic and will need to wait on a seat till she is ready to see us, she will take us into a special room and you will sit in a big comfy chair that you can lie back in, she will let you choose a snappy pair of sunglasses to put on, she will have a look at your cute little teeth in your mouth - like I do when we clean them together, she may need to put on a light to see how beautiful they are - that's why you wear the sunglasses, so you will help her see them by opening up your mouth wide, we can practice tonight when we clean your teeth.....
When There is NO Time to Prepare - THIS is the day - you are going NOW :
1. Even if you have prepared by talking with your child beforehand, you still need to chat again on the day on the way as they won't know that THIS is the moment unless you clearly say so.
2. As you dress, have breakfast, walk to the car and prepare to leave - begin the conversation.
3. Tell them where you are going and why if appropriate. Don't apologise as children don't understanding mums apologising when they are rushing, it only makes them loose confidence and feel less prepared for what's to come. Keep calm and up-beat yourself - even if it's an emergency.
4. Tell them how you feel about the place you are going - a positive feel. Check point 2 in When There is Preparation Time.
5. Tell your child what will happen once you get there. This is SO important for children 3years and older. See point 3 in When There is Time to Prepare.
Children will arrive calm and more at ease. They will now have some idea of what to expect as you have prepared them.
It only seems fair that I do my best to prepare my kids for new experiences - that is part of my job as their mum.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ help your child to understand somewhere they are going soon by starting to prepare them.