Parents worry, this is a well known fact. During pregnancy they worry if the baby will go full term and if he/she will be healthy. When the baby is born they worry about the child’s eating and sleeping habits. Each new stage of a child’s development brings a new set of worries, none more so than the school going age.
There is no doubt about it, the first day a child starts school is a huge milestone. In fact it is many things, it is; scary, strange and an emotional day for all involved. Not surprisingly it is usually more nerve wracking for the parents than the child. Will they make friends? Will they survive a day without me? All these worries and fears are natural, but it is important, as parents, not to alert the child to your anxiety as this will make them more nervous.
When a child has a bleeding disorder these anxieties are heightened. Will he/she know to tell the teacher if he/she has a bleed? Will the other kids pick on him because he has a bleeding disorder? What if he/she falls in the yard and bangs their head? Will the teachers know what to do?
Whether your child is starting school or going into a crèche/playschool for the first time their first day can be hectic. The child can be excited or nervous or a combination of both.
It is hard to manage your nerves while trying to deal with a hyper child, so put yourself in the shoes of the teacher – a first day with 25 or more excitable children and many anxious parents, they will talk and reassure you that your child/children will be ok, that’s if you can hear them over that one child who is screaming. The first day is not the time to try and educate the teacher on your child’s bleeding disorder, they have a lot to deal with. Before your child starts school get in touch with the principal and offer them information on your child’s bleeding disorder.
The Irish Haemophilia Society have an information booklet and posters for teachers and playgroup leaders. The information booklet can be given to the school for them to read themselves, the poster can be given for display in the classroom or in a press or in the staff room if you are worried about your child being singled out for his/her bleeding disorder.
I don’t like to use this word, but in the recession, cuts have been made to the education sector which means added pressure on teachers and school resources, but the education, safety and comfort of the student is always paramount. If you have given the information and still have some concerns, make an appointment with the teacher and/or the principal. If the school wants, or if you would like to offer, a member of the Irish Haemophilia Society Staff can go to the school/crèche and talk about bleeding disorders and what that means for the child and for them as the supervisor. Haemophilia and von Willebrands Disease are the most common bleeding disorders, but are still rare disorders. The likelihood is that the school/crèche will never have had a child with a bleeding disorder in their care and will be looking for information. You do not need to educate the school team alone, the I.H.S. are here to help make the transition of a child into a school/crèche as easy as possible.
As the school may not know about bleeding disorders they may have some misconceptions i.e. that the child needs one to one care, that the child will not stop bleeding if they get a paper cut or that the child should not be allowed to play in the yard with the other children. Remember this is new to them and it is natural for them to ask questions, once they have the information they will understand there are no limitations to what your child can do.
Make sure that the school/crèche has the correct contact information for you in case of emergency, don’t just leave one contact number, there is always an occasion when you can’t answer your phone so better to be safe and have a back up for you, just in case!
It will be an adjustment having your child in crèche or at school and naturally it will take some time to settle into a routine and for you to stop worrying, or at least worry less. Give yourself time, but remember the I.H.S. are always here if you need to talk – not just about bleeding disorders, but about life!
Tips to help your child settle in school/crèche:
- Talk to your child about starting school/crèche knowing what’s ahead can help them prepare.
- Does your child know any other children starting in the school? If so tell them there will be children they know there. Sometimes the fear of the unknown scares us the most so knowing there will be a familiar face can help ease first day nerves.
- Tell your child about your first day at school or read them a story about someone starting school (happy stories only).
- Take your child to school on their first day. Starting school is stressful and having a parent to hold their hand will help the child relax.
- Show your child where you will collect them at the end of the day, they need to know you are coming back.
- Teach your child the important information i.e. who they should tell if they have a bleed.
- Be on time – in dropping off and picking up. It is scary for a child to walk into a class full of new people. It can be scarier to walk into a class that has already started. The child will be anxious to see you when class is over, try and be there waiting for them. Seeing other parents and not seeing you could make them anxious.
- Give them time – after school they will want to tell you everything – from how nice their teacher is to who their best friend is – set aside time for them to tell you their life story, don’t push them for information they will want to tell you themselves.
- Be patient – the first day will have an air of excitement, but after a week of early mornings, uniforms and learning, the fun might wear off and be replaced by a tired, grumpy child so be prepared and remember, we all have mornings like that!
Tears and tantrums might be part and parcel for a child starting school, but fear and fretting for the parents should not be. Hopefully with this information and with the support of the Irish Haemophilia Society you might feel more relaxed.
Nuala Mc Auley,
Irish Haemophilia Society