Do you fancy a free book? One that teaches your multiracial or biracial kids to love their curly hair? Mixed.Up.Mama is giving away two copies of Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way, the much-celebrated third book from best-selling author of Daddy Do My Hair.
My daughters love this book and we all had the pleasure of meeting the author Tola Okugwu just this summer. Her book is a repetitive, delightful book that is beautifully illustrated and explores the joys and challenges of having curly hair through Kechi’s relationship with her Daddy.
There’s a lot written about biracial hair care and how to take care of it. But I find there’s nothing more real than seeing what curly biracial hair care routine the average Jo Mum does with her kid’s curly hair.
I have 3 mixed race daughters (mixed Iranian, Nigerian and English) and they all have different types of curls, length, texture and thickness.
So we use a myriad of different products- some that change with the season, some that I use on one girls’ hair and not on the other, and some that are absolute staples in our house.
Here is a look at what we do as part of our daily mixed race biracial hair care routine.
My oldest daughter has the longest, perhaps loosest curls and her hair grows down as opposed to up.
Because her hair is made up of looser curls, I find I don’t need to apply thick gel or creme. I can get away with this Argan oil styling mousse which makes her hair both shiny and slippery to comb my fingers through. I do need to get her hair quite wet to be able to comb through though. And the thicker the hair, the more oil you’ll need to really penetrate all of the hair. My daughter’s curly hair care routine (for reference) takes me about 7-10 minutes to brush through and put into a protective style.
This is my middle daughter. She has the shortest, most afro type biracial hair. Her hair grows in tight curls and gets dry the easiest. I usually wet it (a lot) before applying a generous amount of leave in conditioning cream.
I use a one or the other of these products to allow my fingers to comb through her hair easily. The wetness combined with the moisture from the products allows me to finger comb it easily but her hair is also quite fine so you may need to separate thicker hair into sections to get the same effect.
After this, I apply half a bottle cap amount of argan oil to give it shine and to keep it moisturised all day. **Note: always apply oil to wet hair or it won’t be absorbed into the hair. Her biracial hair care routine seems shorter somehow but still takes about 5-7 minutes.
My youngest daughter has a combination of both types of hair. It grows fast and down but it still has an afro-type texture in the front and in parts of the back.
Her biracial hair care requires a lot more moisturising as it’s also the thickest of all my daughters’ hair and gets the most tangled. I can’t usually finger comb through it after wetting it so I use a hair brush
(pictured above) with lots of Cantu conditioning creme.
Because she’s the youngest and has the thickest hair, I usually spend about 10-15 minutes on her curly hair care routine , combing through (without too much pain) and putting it into a protective style.
Here is the result after combing it through and moisturising it.
I will soon post about my weekly wash day biracial hair care routine as I know this can be a bit trickier. For insight, I generally use the Curly Ellie products as these are very gentle on the hair.
Raising Race Conscious Children: Talking about Racism
My oldest daughter, aged 7, recently learned about Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. But not from me. In school, with her teacher and amongst her classmates who are majority white.
For her, I knew this was her first introduction to the concept of racism. Not only that, but injustice, discrimination and hatred based on skin colour- not in a playground but rather, played out in the adult world causing pain, violence and in some cases, death.
Some heavy lessons in there I’m sure. And though I’m glad she learned about some of the bravest and most heroic names of our time, I’m also sad that she’s had to take this in at such an early age.
My fear? That her belief and naivety in a world where everyone is treated equal was shattered. In her world, bullying doesn’t and shouldn’t happen to grown ups. Ashamedly, I hadn’t actually thought that raising race conscious children was possible at her age.
It’s worse than that. It’s not just bullying, it’s actually denying people the same things for reasons that she’s been taught thus far, don’t matter. Things that make no difference and shouldn’t feature in how you judge a person’s character.
Do Children Actually Understand Racism?
It’s good that her teacher is talking to children about racism and as part of this, she performed an experiment (you may have heard of it). Half the class were let out for playtime early, that same group were given chocolate treats, iPads and new markers while the other group were told to get on with what they had or were given old markers and broken toys.
The kids without were outraged and the kids given everything understood it was unfair. The experiment showed that kids do get injustice. But did they truly understand the power context behind racism? Racism is not simply denying group x, it’s about actually creating and maintaining a system of power to maintain it.
It raised the question, could I have had a chat with my daughter earlier so that her first introduction to the subject would be with us, her parents? And was I naive to think she wasn’t already seeing signs of how privilege and prejudice work and who benefits? If I want to be raising race conscious children, should I have been trying to talk to them about racism a lot earlier?
The answer is yes. Our children are never too young to have these discussions if we want to be raising race conscious children. Because they are noticing difference no matter how much you want to sugar coat it. And if it’s you who first broaches a discussion, your child will most likely feel comfortable later on to discuss the more complex aspects of race that inevitably need exploring.
So if you want to have an open door about topics such as race and racism, here’s a guide to get you started,
Raising Race Conscious Children: Kids are never too young to begin talking about race
If you think your children don’t see colour and that racial differences are taught and not noticed by children, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Children as young as two or three start asking about differences, such as disabilities, gender, skin colour and physical characteristics like hair and body shape. Surely you’ve been out with your children and they’ve loudly and rather unininhibitedly asked about the woman with the limp, the man dressed up as a woman or even as mundane (as in my daughter’s case) as the man with “hair all over his face!”
These moments are opportunities. And that’s just it. Opportunities to introduce difference, to explore how we’re all made in different shapes, genders and sizes. Use other differences and topics to start talking to children about racism. Start a discussion reminding them how some of us may have parts of us that work differently or look slightly different but what’s important is how we act and behave towards others.
If you don’t live in a diverse area, use books, magazines, tv shows and ads to introduce diverse characters. Be intentional about seeking out diversity- not the books that talk about difference as its main subject but diverse characters doing everyday things. So kids can see that these differences aren’t that important.
Point out all the similarities, like the fact they both like playing football or wearing pink. The differences are there but they’re not more important than what brings people together.
Raising Race Conscious Children: The Early years
Somewhere around 4 or 5 years old, children begin to make conscious decisions about who they play with based on things as arbitrary as ‘he wears glasses’ or ‘she funny hair’.
These are based on what we call unconscious bias which they would have already begun to have absorb. They’re based on their idea of what is ‘normal’ in the world around them and unconscious characteristics that they assign to certain things.
So, brown skin can be perceived as ‘dirty’ or a child with brown skin born to a white mother (as was the case with my daughter’s friend at this age) was not possible.
It’s important in these discussions not to scold or shush a child who questions but rather, ask them why they might think this and gently explain why that is not the case. Talking to children about racism is never going to be comfortable. And though I was initially alarmed by the child who told me I couldn’t be my daughter’s Mum because I didn’t have the same skin colour, I realised it was just not in her consciousness that families could look so different.
We talked about how each child is a mixture of both their parents and that DD1’s Dad was black and I’m white so our children came out a light brown colour. With that, she was off. She got it. Made sense in her world: colour mixing. We can be raising race conscious children positively. It doesn’t always have to be the negative aspects of race.
Don’t feel alarmed when children voice such assertions about the world but again, try to look at them as opportunities to ask them why they think this. And explore whether there is more you can be doing to show them why their assertion was not true.
I spoke to the teacher about possibly looking at how families look different and that this could be an opportunity to explore more than just race but single parent families, same sex parents or adoption.
Raising Race Conscious Children: The School Years
Like a lot of things at this age, the fairytales about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy have become just that- tales. Children have started becoming more discerning about the world around them and questioning why things are the way they are.
Part of this shift includes absorbing the not-so-subtle messages of power and privilege surrounding them. You could choose to ignore it or you could use their questions to spur in depth discussions about privilege.
To start a discussion, try talking to them about some of the subtle messages we get in our everyday lives. Are there particular people who never seem to be the superhero or princess in your books or movies? Who always seems to ‘save the day’? And who is often the one who needs to be ‘saved?’ Who is considered ‘pretty’?
My middle daughter recently expressed a dislike towards a doll we had that happened to have darker skin. The instant she told me she didn’t like her anymore, I knew why.
For all the work and positive images we try to surround her with, we know we’re up against it with all of the ads, images and messages she gets in her school and around. For her, it amounted to one kid in her class that was consistently bothering her and who happened to have darker skin. She had reconciled it in her head that perhaps that was why he was unkind- because of the colour of his skin.
When we talked about it however, she realised that people behave in all sorts of ways, and it doesn’t have to do with their skin colour. Luckily she has enough positive black role models around her that we could reinforce this message. The door is now open for further discussion because I know this is likely only the beginning of what she’ll take in. She will become more race conscious and that is a good thing. My hope is that she can express it positively.
Sometimes these discussions can stir a lot of empathy and emotion so it’s important not to leave your children with that sunken feeling of helplessness. Talk about the heroes of our time who have worked to influence change and what kinds of things they can do if they see someone being treated unfairly. Talking to children about racism doesn’t have to be a depressing discussion, try to let it end in hope.
Our children don’t have the luxury or privilege to ignore race. So what other choice is there?
What Happens Next?
If we don’t talk to our children about race and racism, they will go elsewhere to get answers.
In the end, I’m glad my daughter’s teacher introduced the subject because it has spurred ongoing discussions that have branched into gender and class. I don’t always have it spot on and I’m certain these discussions will get more difficult over the years but our children don’t have the luxury or privilege to ignore race. So what other choice is there?
For more from Mixed.Up.Mama about talking to children about race and privilege, read on…
One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time, Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way is the perfect book to introduce your child to loving their curly, thick, and wonderful hair.
But even better, I got to meet the author, Tola Okugwu who shared her story and what inspired her to start writing about afro hair.
Known even more for her blog about natural hair, when Tola had her first daughter, she noticed (like many of us) the lack of books to inspire her daughter to love her curls.
A book lover and journalist by nature, Tola decided she would write about it. But she didn’t just want to write any book. Every morning she went to work and her partner/ husband was the one doing her daughter’s hair. In her household this was normal. But where were the books that showed the beautiful relationship Dads and daughters can have doing hair??
Soon after, Tola wrote her first book Daddy Do My Hair and after trying unsuccessfully to find a publisher, she soon started her own publishing house and self published Daddy Do My Hair, along with Hope’s Braids and now, Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way.
I have to say though her latest is my favourite. It’s a fun book that still explores the relationship between Daddy and daughter poking fun at the way afro hair can’t be ‘contained. Curly hair’s ability to go “this way, that way and every which way” is a celebratory repetitive rhyme throughout that makes every child want to turn the page eager to see what happens next.
You can see from the videos below, Tola Okugwu is inspired by her daughters and truly believes in what she is doing. Her chat with the children in the audience encouraged them all to examine their own hair and see which way their hair curls, and if it does, does it go every which way?
Illustrated with lovely pictures throughout, Kechi’s Hair is one to look out for. And I’ve even got a few signed copies to give away to a few lucky readers! I will give details this week about how you can enter to get your free copies!
I grew up in mostly-white Edmonton, Alberta, Canada right smack in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. Awareness of difference was low and I remember fantasizing about having a name just like everyone else.
The name calling and the teasing was too much at times. “Arriba, Arriba, Undalé, Undalé!” was called after me every time I was around. Adults too would struggle. And although they tried, I eventually shortened my name from Fariba to Fari. It didn’t help. “Fairy? No. Fiery? No. Ferrari?”
My chosen name? Jessica. In all of my fantasies, I was Jessica. Because Jessica was like everyone else, Jessica’s parents weren’t from somewhere else and best of all, Jessica didn’t stand out because of her name.
In Yangsook Choi’s book, “The Name Jar”, Unhei (pronounced Yoon-Hye) moves from South Korea to America. She starts her first day of school having to explain her new name to all of the other kids and, inevitably, they laugh and tease her about how it’s pronounced. “You-hye, bye bye!”, they tease her.
The story develops with Unhei wanting to choose a typical American name like Laura or Amanda. But she’s reminded soon enough about what her Grandmother taught her about her name. Unhei means grace. And her name’s meaning is far more important than fitting in.
Through a boy she becomes friendly with, he discovers her real name and it shows her she can be proud of her name- even in America.
With beautiful illustrations throughout, The Name Jar has inspired conversations with my children about how and why we’re different as a family. How we might ‘stick out’ and why it’s important to embrace those differences because they make up who we are.
I wouldn’t change my name for the world. But I only discovered that as an adult. I wish I’d been able to stand tall and correct the teasers and conformists who desperately tried to make my name sound english.
This book is about immigrants, about fitting in, peer pressure, multiculturalism and third culture kids. Definitely one for your bookshelves if you’d like to inspire conversations about diversity.
The end of the school year has been amazing with a flurry of end of year activities: sports days, end of year shows, global fairs, summer fairs, and endless activities showcasing the work my children have been doing all year long.
It’s been tiresome but fun. And sometimes, me being a stickler for structure, I forget it all gets a bit gruelling- even for my most organised of daughters.
We finished sports day yesterday and I was exhausted. I thought the kids would be too. But afterwards, the request was- “can we just go and play a little bit?”
“What??”, I asked, incredulous. “You’ve been playing all day!”.
But what they wanted to do wasn’t structured. It wasn’t organised. They wanted to be silly and laugh and spontaneously splash into the nearby pool fully clothed.
I got it. Because like other parents out there, I get lost in that mode of desperately wanting them to have fun in a contained environment where we can predict the results. Being spontaneous and silly are moments we lose.
Plans for summer?
With the summer coming up, my instinct was to make a list of all the activities we’d like to do this summer. A lot of these require organising, booking, scheduling and ticket buying.
But I’m hesitating this year. Because deep down I know they just want to relax. And really, I should be giving them a chance to be bored.
This summer I want my girls to experience boredom. To have days upon days of unstructured, no-entertainment-pleasure.
What? No Entertainment?!
If we were to just not schedule anything… what might happen? They’d eventually get bored, right? Why does that prospect fill us with dread?
Boredom is uncomfortable and our instinct is to ensure constant stimulation. Let’s be honest, how many of us have thought about ensuring our kids do homework everyday so they don’t slow down?
When I’ve let my children just be, they’ve come up with some of their most memorable moments- pillow fights, pretend sports days, forts, and creative art projects. I look back and realise why wouldn’t we want them to have this time?
Okay, so it’s in our human nature to see a vacuum and try to fill it. Most of the time, when children have nothing to do, they rely on the tele, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. Even we, as parents are guilty of it. Our go-to if we don’t have some sort of entertainment planned for them or can’t gather enough energy to entertain them ourselves, is screen time.
So what might happen if our kids are ‘bored’?
Studies have shown that when people don’t have anything to do, their minds wander, they daydream. Creativity happens.
In a grown-up world where creativity is perhaps the only skill machines cannot replace, it’s an important skill our kids need to develop. Boredom lets our kids see the world through their own eyes and pursue that train of thought. Ever heard another parent (or yourself) say, “my kids are all so different”. Isn’t it great to see how they create something through their own lens? Letting them pursue that thought process is part of leaving them alone- bored or not.
When our children grow up, we won’t be there every moment of every day. We won’t be able to entertain them or fill their schedules with educational camps and activities. In fact, research has shown there is no link between how much time we spend with our children and how they turn out. At some point, we have to let go and hope for the best. They need to learn how to handle different situations themselves. And that means leaving them alone.
Learning to motivate themselves is part of growing up. And letting them be bored helps them build up that skill. Searching their environment to find things to do and make key decisions about what to do next is a great thing.
Top tip: Make up new games
Take an example from our everyday lives. We were in the line at the store and it was quite long. The kids started to get bored and restless. Instead of trying to contain them, I encouraged them to think of new games they could play in line to entertain themselves. First, we started with the obvious eye-spy but eventually they thought up a game that involved counting all the chocolate bars, pink sweets and chewing gum. Not hugely complicated but self-motivated nonetheless.
How can we cope with Boredom?
Although we all double-down when we hear the ubiquitous “I’m bored” from our children, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can actually be a motivator for kids to find a goal- to focus themselves.
Parents shouldn’t present the solution, like suggesting exactly what they should do next. It’s not our role to be providing that constant stimulation. Instead, we should be encouraging children to find ways to entertain themselves, to learn to deal with it and escape it. A lifelong skill.
Top tip: Instead of suggesting “why don’t you play UNO?”, why not just suggest a game and let them run with that idea?
Don’t set the bar too high. Sure, go to museums and organise days out to circumvent the days when there’s nothing going on. But this summer, encourage your children to know what it’s like to just be. To use their imaginations, run around in the garden, be creative and just be.
It’s birthday party season again. That time when kids (and their parents) are invited to countless parties eating into every weekend and spare minute of family time you have.
I shouldn’t say that. Parties are wonderful for the kids. A time to get together with their friends outside of school, where they can play, eat and generally be on a two hour sugar high. Great, huh?
It’s just that the end of the summer somehow warrants those born in both July AND August to schedule their parties just at the point where life is beginning its frenzied scheduled chaos. So, for some reason, it feels like a lot after a spring that was relatively party-free.
But seeing as the kids look forward to it and many of the kids are my daughters’ good friends, when is it okay to turn down a party invitation?
First, ask yourself how close are they really? If dd1 was invited because the whole class was invited and you know your kids don’t really hang out, take that as a free pass to turn it down.
How busy are you? If it means you’ll have to go from dance class to picking up dd2 from football to your hair appointment and then to the party, I think it’s safe to say that you’re busy. Don’t stress yourself to the point that you’ll resent being there the whole time.
Check if you can share the pick up/drop off with another Mum/parent. Even better, if your kids are at the age when you can just drop them off, this is definitely the best option. It gets more complicated when you’re expected to stay and help supervise but still worth a shot to take it in turns.
Family time always trumps birthday parties. If weekends are your only days to spend as a family and this is at a premium, it’s okay to turn it down. Spending time as a family is important and children crave that time (more than time with their friends-despite what they might say). Otherwise the weekend can just fly by. Alternatively, make it a family event. Enquire whether siblings are welcome and come with your whole brood!
What’s the activity and is it difficult to get there? Again, check how convenient it is for you and whether your child will actually enjoy it. If your child hates heights and they’re headed to GoApe!, it’s probably a miss for her.
Make it enjoyable for you! Yes it’s a party for the kids but heck, you’ve given up your afternoon as well so if beer or alcohol is on offer, take it! You deserve it!
Hopefully this list helps to reassure you there are legit excuses to turning down a party invitation… Send me your ideas and what’s worked for you! Good luck!
Like all Mums to biracial girls, I want my girls to love curls. Not just to accept it but to love it, own it, be confident about it. That starts with me, their Mum the first person who will touch and style their hair and show them how to care for it.
But how do I, their Mum, actually teach girls to love their curls when I have straight hair??
I started with language. Words such as ‘difficult’ and ‘time-consuming’, ‘thick’ and ‘course‘ no matter how innocent, all have an impact on how our daughters perceive their hair- and their own self. Because hair is representative of who they are as biracial or black women.
I wanted to know, from someone who’s been there, what it really means to teach girls to love curls.
So I spoke with Shannon Fitzsimmons best known as Instagrammer and Natural Hair Enthusiast UKCurlyGirl, recently about her experience.
Shannon works with women from all walks of life who are making life-changing, sometimes complete philosophical changes from relaxed hair to embracing the wild curls that they were born with.
In many cases, these women have grown up ashamed of their curls, taught that straight hair is better- easier even. Wearing their hair natural was never a possibility.
Shannon’s work has attracted a huge following with almost 20k Instagram followers and a further 4k+ on Facebook.
Already with a book ‘Get My Curls Back!’ under her belt and a line of curly hair products, Osocurly, she’s a well-established name in the industry.
She makes a healthy living out of teaching girls to love curls. So with all this experience, I wanted to know what drew Shannon to this work and what we can do as Mums to biracial girls from a young age.
Shannon’s story began as a child growing up mixed to a Nigerian Dad and a Scottish Mum in London. Her school was mostly white and her Dad was largely absent from her upbringing.
She remembers the questions, ‘what are you?’ from her friends highlighting her difference, and she struggled to like her thick coarse hair. She wanted straight hair, like the other girls in her class. And athough her Mum was always positive about her curls, she knew her hair brought with it extra ‘complications’.
In High School, she experimented with colour and wanted desperately to relax her hair, wanting her curls to reflect the Beyonces and Christina Milians with more wavy curl patterns.
Whilst her Mum discouraged her, eventually Shannon did relax her hair, using the excuse that she was going off to Uni and it would be ‘difficult’ to find the right hair products outside of London.
Again, the word ‘difficult’ featured in her journey.
In 2014, her hair had become so damaged it hardly had any curl pattern at all. Upkeep was expensive and her hair was thinning.
She started the transition back to her curly all-natural hair. Though she’d never really bothered to learn how to take care of curly hair, she decided to cut off all the damaged bits and start again.
The change was significant. She felt more confidant, therefore and she noticed how her journey seemed to inspire many of her friends who saw not only the change in her hair but also in her. She was finally teaching herself self-love.
Quite early on, Shannon started posting about her progress. And whilst it started off as a hobby, it soon turned into a career. Shannon realised that her own experience was leading her to teach other women to love their curls. So her book, “Get My Curls Back” was a chance to show the world how we could do it too.
Her experience has propelled her to build a community of women who love their curly hair. Working with women who are often at the end of their hair journey in terms of already being grown up and through the most difficult stage of teenagedom, I wanted to know what advice Shannon could give us Mums of mixed kids to teach our daughters to love their curly hair from a young age.
For Mums raising mixed girls, she had this to say about how to teach girls to love curls:
Use all natural products in your children’s hair (no chemicals, no sulphites, no parabens).
Look at the back of each product for an ingredient list and if the first 3-5 ingredients don’t contain water, it’s probably not moisturising enough.
Show your daughters bloggers or you tube videos with similar hair types. Girls like them who are confidant and happy with their hair. Girls who have a hair routine and they have healthy curly moisturised hair because of it.
Make the experience of braiding and twisting a positive experience- a special occasion that they can look forward to every week.
Get dolls that feature their hair type. Curly, afro dolls are widely available now. Even curly styling heads so they can practice doing their own hair.
Mums, you should practice was well. Get onto youtube and watch videos on how to plait and cornrow. There’s really no excuse anymore.
By about 11 years old- sometimes later depending on the child- your child may be ready to start doing their own hair. Let them experiment and watch video tutorials then let them go for it! It’s empowering and important in their own hair and identity journey.
Never let your daughters think their hair is ‘difficult’, thick or ‘complicated’. That means showing them women who are happy and confidant and who go through the same styling process as them.
I don’t want my daughters to get to adulthood and decide it’s easier to straighten it. I don’t want them to think their hair is ‘difficult’ or ‘wild’ or ’embarassing’. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in that talk when it comes to embarking on what can often feel like a huge learning curve.
Coming from a woman who’s lived it and who teaches fully grown women to repair the damage a lifetime of shame and fear has ingrown, this is stuff we can listen to.
Shannon offers curly haired women 1 to 1’s- a consultation with Shannon offering personalised hair advice and product recommendations. She also offers regular brunches throughout the UK for her followers to discuss hair, transitioning tips, hair struggles and routines.
If you’d like to get in touch with Shannon or want to know more about how to teach girls to love curls, follow her on Instagram @ukcurlygirl or visit her website at Ukcurlygirl.com
Changing your child’s school can be one of the most difficult experiences a parent can go through, and stands up there amongst sending kids on their first date, leaving them at nursery for the first time, deciding on the right school…you get the drill.
It’s not that deep down you don’t know that things will probably be okay. But as you send them out there into the uknown- knowing that walking into their new classroom their heart is in their stomach, it’s so hard to feel reassured.
Whatever your motivation for moving your child, – moving house, bullying, academia, a closer school- the initial transition can always feel difficult.
I did that recently- moved my 6 year old from one school to another. Not because I moved house but for a myriad of reasons- reasons she’s probably too young to understand. She was happy where she was. But we moved her. And she’s spent nearly four months adjusting to her new school. And it was stressful. And hard. And, at times we as parents felt like we’d made the wrong decision.
We’re just finally coming out of what we feel has been the most difficult stage of her transition. She’s sensitive and I knew it would be hard adjusting to change. She struggles with the ‘what ifs?’ and it’s definitely taken a knock to her confidence.
But the best part is, she’s learned a lot about herself and we (she and I) talk a lot. If there is one thing that I hope continues it’s that she knows she’s got an open door to come to me about anything.
We don’t regret it because the school is pushing her to explore depths of talent even she didn’t know she had. And that’s a good thing. But also uncomfortable.
Staying was easy. Staying was comfortable. But we knew it would only get harder as she grew up. Not underestimating the 3 years she’d already spent at the school (enough time to form some deep friendships), we knew she’d have four more years to make new friends. And we make sure we keep in contact with old ones.
She still has good days and bad. And sometimes she goes into that place where she says she has no friends but we both know that’s untrue and I’ve found it helpful not to let her go there- even if she wants to.
Having come through the experience on the other end and for those parents that may be contemplating change over the summer, here are a few things to consider before moving your child.
Make sure (if you can) to keep up old friendships. It’s important. Just like we, as adults, wouldn’t just cut off old friendships just because we move jobs or move house, we shouldn’t expect this of our children, just because we’re the ones in control of whether they see them or not. We live in an era of Skype, FaceTime, even phone calls if you don’t live local. It’s easy to keep in touch and important for your child to know that they’ve not been forgotten and that they can see and visit their friends.
2) Open communication. This has been one of the best things that has helped my daughter. She’s been able to share her concerns, her worries and all the questions she has about her new school. One of her worries was whether some of her classmates would be kind to her. We talked this through, exploring whether there are some kids in her current class that are nice and some that may not always be and that this will be the same wherever you go. But reassure them that most people are kind when they first meet somebody, wouldn’t she be?
3) Consult with your children but don’t let them decide. Moving our daughter was a huge decision for us and one that we mulled over for awhile having tried different things to work with the school she was at and see if there were ways that we could get from it what we wanted. When we didn’t see that happening, we felt more and more drawn to this new school. Some of the reasons we couldn’t always share with her as they were about things she may not have always understood- long term vision, bigger picture as a family etc. Children think in terms of the short term and their immediate situation. We did share with her slowly some of the reasons but left it open for her to see some of the advantages herself as well. We talked with her at every step of the process getting her ready but ultimately it was our decision as parents.
4) Attitude (yours as well as theirs). The day I stopped feeling sorry for my daughter was the day that she stopped crying. It’s fine to have sympathy but let’s talk about the energy that we’re putting out into the world. Children are smart and will pick up on the attention they get because they make a fuss every morning. That’s not to say their feelings aren’t real. But I remember about 6 weeks in after a couple of weeks of crying every morning but happy faces when I picked her up, I knew she was generally okay. We had a chat about being brave and deciding that this was going to be a good day. It was. And it marked a shift in how she went in. Share your child’s feelings but don’t become so bogged down in being empathetic that you’re both just wallowing in regret and sadness.
5) Do a taster session beyond just a visit. One of the best things we as parents requested of the new school was for our daughter to spend a morning or a day with her new classmates and teacher. This was groundbreaking in that our daughter was able to see that the children were normal (not scary and mean), the teacher was kind and that it was in fact, very similar to what her current classroom was like. Knowing this before the big first day really helps to take away the fear of the unknown.
6) Celebrate the positives when they happen. When new achievements, friends, trips or opportunities happen at the new school, celebrate these and empathise to your child how they might never have had that experience if they hadn’t moved. Our child started a new term in January when the whole school was immersed in a Shakespeare production. My daughter loves performing and was given a lead role in the play. Having this to work towards and to be given such a fantastic starring role was incredibly motivating and a boost to her confidence.
7) Try to make playdates with new school mates to speed up the settling in process and foster tighter bonds- even if it’s just between a couple of new friends. Friends- new and old- will always be the main concern for your child at their new school. Whether they have any, whether they will lose their old ones etc.
The sooner you can solve this issue, the sooner things will settle down. Try to make friendships with some of the other parents and suggest a playdate. It also helps you, as a parent, to form a community and to feel more settled into your child’s new school.
Starting at a new school is hard no matter what. With awareness of what to look out for and how to help the transition become easier, you can weather even the hardest of moves. Change doesn’t have to come at a price.
Princess Cupcake Jones Book Review by Ylleya Fields
I love love these Princess Cupcake books. Not just because of the illustrations. They’re fun, colourful, sweet and quite obviously representative of our curly girls. But the message is also sweet, the theme of a modern-day princess who will do everything not to go to school. And with a hidden challenge on every page to find the secret word ‘love’… well, let’s just say I get multiple requests a day to read one of her series.
And that’s just it. It’s part of a series of books about Princess Cupcake Jones and her very relatable adventures. This one starts with Cupcake Jones and her fear of going to school. What will school be like???, she wonders.
Filled with fear, at first Cupcake attempts to make a fuss, then she fakes being ill. Cheeky as she is, she doesn’t give up though. Finally, she executes her very last attempt. To hide.
Sweet and funny, Cupcake’s Mum has all the words to reassure her. So when it’s time to go to school, Cupcake glances into her classroom and sees a smiling girl pop up and introduce herself. Her name is Violet and she has the same tutu.
Cupcake feels at ease in minutes and runs off to play with her new friend on her very first day. She whispers to her Mum that she’s okay to stay and she’s happy to say goodbye.
Written in delightful rhyme and with the hidden word ‘love’ on every page, it makes for a very special read every time. With one looking at the pictures, the older two eager to find the word ‘love’ and all of them eager to hear what happens, it really is a special book to read together- for all my girls.