Let me paint you a picture….

Your kids have been at Kindy for a term already, and you have excitedly been waiting for that moment where you will get to go in and be on “Mummy Roster”. You imagine in your head how much fun it’s going to be watching your children play nicely with their friends, follow the teacher’s instructions, and best of all you will get to initiate an activity with all the kids, and everything’s going to be sunshine and rainbows….

Now, let me tell you about how that day ACTUALLY went, and why “Mummy Roster” days are important for both yourself, and your kids.

3 Days Before D-Day:

This is when I really started to prepare the kids about what was going to happen, more for my daughter’s sake, but I really do advocate keeping your kids in the loop and preparing them for changes in routine.

My daughter has quite high levels of anxiety, to go along with her inflexibility and intensity, and this, combined with a change in routine can be challenging to manage. So I talked to them both about how some other mums have been in their classrooms, and how fun this was, and that mummy was going to get a chance to come in too. We talked about how the other kids got to leave early, directly after lunch and go home and have even more fun with their mummies at home.

All in all, this was received well, and I developed a bit of a false sense of security, now that I look back on it.

D-Day: Mummy Roster Day

The day started really well. Both kids were excited that mummy was coming and happy to help by cooperating during dressing and getting into the car. I let them know that I was bringing along some stuff so that we could make exploding volcanoes (one of their all-time favourite activities).

When we got to kindy, my daughter continued to show her excitement by running over to tell the teacher that it was Mummy Roster day and we were going to make exploding volcanoes.   This right here is winning, I thought to myself.

I really wanted to get a feel for how the kids interacted with their friends so I just hung back a little. And I was rewarded big time by seeing L&S playing together with two other little girls in the sandpit area (definitely Miss 4’s happy place).

My heart just about exploded out of my chest, when I hear Mr 4, ask one of the other girls “Would you like some water?”

 

For quite some time now, we have been working on social skills. Areas like group plans, joining in on play, eye contact, cooperative play etc. So to see them both playing in a cooperative manner and talking with the other two girls to extend their play had me almost tearing up!

Miss 4 is more distractable than her brother, and at one point decided to go off on her own and do some climbing, which again, I was ready to do cartwheels, as it can take a lot of prompting to get her involved in gross motor activities at home and in therapy.

She was happy to show off her balancing skills that we have been working on in therapy.

 

So, I think it goes without saying, that this is THE GOOD part of the post. My heart was full.

Now, for THE BAD

Mummy decided to play with the other kids. We were having a great old time!

I was pretending to be a crocodile and snapping my arms as they flew over my head on the flying fox; kids started joining me in snapping their hands. Things were starting to get a bit crazy so I asked the kids if anyone wanted to come over to a different area and I would teach them a game. There was a mass exodus from the crocodile swamp, and so far L&S were holding it together really well.

So I taught the kids to play “What’s the Time, Mr Wolf?”, and this is where things started to go downhill.

While, Mr 4, the other kids and I were whooping it up and fully immersed in play, Miss S, was starting to show some cracks. She didn’t like that the other kids were getting my attention. She didn’t like that other kids got a turn to be Mr Wolf. She wanted mummy to pick her up. She wanted mummy to stop playing. And then the meltdown started.

Now, from an outsider’s perspective this probably appeared as a bratty kid who wanted to get her own way and be Mr Wolf. That, however was not the case.

She was overloaded emotionally and couldn’t get her body to calm down, no matter what was suggested by her teachers and her peers. Now for those of you that have watched your child experience an emotional meltdown, it can be really tough. It’s tough because no-one wants to see their child in such pain; we don’t want to feel the inevitable embarrassment that our child is behaving this way; and it can often trigger our frustration, particularly if it’s a regular occurrence.

Through some help from her teachers and I, she was able to finally calm down and by this stage we had moved on to cleaning up. She even held my hand, picked up a toy and placed it in its box.

During circle time, I could see her struggling again as other children wanted to sit next to me, so I pulled her into my lap and gave her some extra love and attention. Now, if I could tell you one key thing as a parent of an intensely emotional child with anxiety, it is the importance of touch and attention. I cannot tell you how much heartache and frustration this simple strategy can save you.

Exploding Volcanoes and Tempers

I won’t bore you with all the details, but once again, the fact that mummy was paying so much attention to the other children had Miss S struggling. Once again, she didn’t know what to do with herself and all her big feelings, so she started crying and throwing herself on the ground and screaming: “It’s not right!”

At this point one of her teacher’s offered to take over my task so I could help her calm down, and rejoin the group. The teacher then went on to tell me, that while they have had difficulties with her emotional regulation and transitions, they have never quite experienced this before.

And, as hard as it was, it was an important thing to have happen.

  • This gave the opportunity for her teachers to see the full nature of her emotional world
  • It helped them understand why I’m such a SERIOUS MUMMA when it comes to questioning them about her day
  • It gave Miss S further proof of how important she is to me, by having me focus on her in that moment

As the Exploding Volcano activity is such a sensory one, it was the perfect way to allow her to regulate. And by this stage, I’m feeling a bit drained, but hopeful that the worst is behind me. Until….

THE UGLY started right at the moment where you would think she would be happy.

We finished lunch, we were packing up and this is where I really felt we were on a rollercoaster

This is a pretty apt example of what Miss S, and my own emotions were doing during the day. High; Low; Loop the Loop and repeat!

What I failed to realise in the moment, was how much the emotional load of the day was making her crave structure and routine, even more than usual. Miss S, definitely finds it difficult when there is a change in routine, hence I had spent 3 days preparing her for Mummy Roster.

She couldn’t understand why we were leaving kindy when her day there wasn’t done. After all, the lights were off; that meant it was time for her to go inside and take a nap. No amount of explaining to her that she could nap at home and how wonderful it would be to go home early with Mumma and Mr L, would help her sway from her desire to follow routine.

So, I had to do what I do on many of the days where there’s a change to routine and she’s struggling emotionally. I had to use my HUG Technique.

H – how was this making me feel? Well, pretty shitty if I’m honest! I had to take a couple of really deep breaths myself. I was feeling tired, frustrated and really struggling to understand why she just couldn’t get that it was actually better to go home early.

U – understand why the behaviour is occurring. I could see that the behaviour was coming about because she was feeling overwhelmed and wanted to gain some control back. She was struggling to get across how important it was to her to feel safe and in control again.

G – guide her future behaviour. This one was a little tougher because you can’t really guide any behaviour when they are still so volatile. So I reflected back to her that I knew what she was feeling and how difficult this was for her. I let her know it’s important for her to use her words and tell mummy her plan. I let her know it was ok to feel sad/mad/angry but that it was not ok to behave in any way that hurt people (she was scratching at my neck at one point). I told her I loved her and that we would have lots of mummy cuddles. I modelled deep breathing for her (which I needed myself too) and I carried her to the car, rather than expecting her to walk.

Her emotions were scattered for the rest of the afternoon. She cried in the car the whole way home and for another 15 minutes of me just holding her and verbalising what she was experiencing. Later on that night when she was fully calm, she was able to talk about her feelings herself, which was helpful.

 

So, after that experience, why would I recommend that parents of kids with anxiety or difficulty with emotional regulation put yourself through this type of ordeal?

Key Learnings:

  • I got the opportunity at the beginning of the visit to see my kids interact in a positive way with their peers
  • Her teachers got to see how challenging changes to her routine are for her (and for me!)
  • It further affirmed for me, that I am her safe place; the person with whom she can really lose it, because she knows she’s safe
  • By challenging her, I’m offering opportunities for growth
  • By me remaining calm and verbalising what I thought she was going through, she was able to talk about her feelings

 

Our kids who experience emotions intensely, or who are anxious, or who hold it together all day long at school, need a safe person. As much as it kills me at times to experience this with her, I’m grateful that she trusts me enough to know that I will hold her together when the world is a scary place.

I’d love to hear if you’ve had similar experiences with your kids, or anything you’ve learnt from attending a Mummy Roster day at Kindy/Preschool.

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