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No matter how excited your child was to pick out a new lunchbox and backpack this year, there will likely be days when they just don't want to go to school. Whether they're saying "I don't like school" when you're home playing together or having a meltdown on the way to the classroom, there are things you can say to help.

More than the exact words you use, the most important thing is your attitude, which your child is most definitely aware of. It's important to validate their feelings while conveying a calm confidence that school is the right place for them to be and that they can handle it.

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Here are some phrases that will encourage your child to go to school:

1. "You're safe here."

If you have a young child, they may be genuinely frightened of leaving you and going to school. Tell them that school is a safe place full of people who care about them. If you say this with calm confidence, they'll believe you.No matter what words you say, if your child senses your hesitation, your own fear of leaving them, they will not feel safe. How can they be safe if you're clearly scared of leaving them? Try to work through your own feelings about dropping them off before the actual day so you can be a calm presence and support.

2. "I love you and I know you can do this."

It's best to keep your goodbye short, even if your child is crying or clinging to you, and trust that you have chosen a good place for them to be. Most children recover from hard goodbyes quickly after the parent leaves.

If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, give one good strong hug and tell them that you love them and know they can do this. Saying something like, "It's just school, you'll be fine" belittles their feelings. Instead, acknowledge that this is hard, but that you're confident they're up to the task. This validates the anxiety they're feeling while ending on a positive note.

After a quick reassurance, make your exit, take a deep breath and trust that they will be okay.

3. "First you'll have circle time, then work time, and then you'll play on the playground."

Talk your child through the daily schedule at school, including as many details as possible. Talk about what will happen when you drop them off, what kinds of work they will do, when they will eat lunch and play outside, and who will come to get them in the afternoon.

It can help to do this many times so that they become comfortable with the new daily rhythm.

4. "I'll pick you up after playground time."

Give your child a frame of reference for when you will be returning.

If your child can tell time, you can tell them you'll see them at 3:30pm. If they're younger, tell them what will happen right before you pick them up. Perhaps you'll come get them right after lunch, or maybe it's after math class.

Giving this reference point can help reassure them you are indeed coming back and that there is a specific plan for when they will see you again. As the days pass, they'll realize that you come consistently every day when you said you would and their anxieties will ease.

5. "What book do you think your teacher will read when you get to school this morning?"

Find out what happens first in your child's school day and help them mentally transition to that task. In a Montessori school, the children choose their own work, so you might ask about which work your child plans to do first.

If they're in a more traditional school, find an aspect of the school morning they enjoy and talk about that.

Thinking about the whole school day can seem daunting, but helping your child focus on a specific thing that will happen can make it seem more manageable.

6. "Do you think Johnny will be there today?"

Remind your child of the friends they will see when they get to school.

If you're not sure who your child is bonding with, ask the teacher. On the way to school, talk about the children they can expect to see and try asking what they might do together.

If your child is new to the school, it might help to arrange a playdate with a child in their class to help them form strong relationships.

7. "That's a hard feeling. Tell me about it."

While school drop-off is not the time to wallow in the hard feelings of not wanting to go to school, if your child brings up concerns after school or on the weekend, take some time to listen to them.

Children can very easily be swayed by our leading questions, so keep your questions very general and neutral so that your child can tell you what they're really feeling.

They may reveal that they just miss you while they're gone, or may tell you that a certain person or kind of work is giving them anxiety.

Let them know that you empathize with how they feel, but try not to react too dramatically. If you think there is an issue of real concern, talk to the teacher about it, but your reaction can certainly impact the already tentative feelings about going to school.

8. "What can we do to help you feel better?"

Help your child brainstorm some solutions to make them more comfortable with going to school.

Choose a time at home when they are calm. Get out a pen and paper to show that you are serious about this.

If they miss you, would a special note in their pocket each morning help? If another child is bothering them, what could they say or who could they ask for help? If they're too tired in the morning, could an earlier bedtime make them feel better?

Make it a collaborative process, rather than a situation where you're rescuing them, to build their confidence.

9. "What was the best part of your school day?"

Choose a time when your child is not talking about school and start talking about your day. Tell them the best part of your day, then try asking about the best part of their day. Practice this every day.

It's easy to focus on the hardest parts of an experience because they tend to stick out in our minds. Help your child recognize that, even if they don't always want to go, there are likely parts of school they really enjoy.

10. "I can't wait to go to the park together when we get home."

If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, remind them of what you will do together after you pick them up from school.

Even if this is just going home and making dinner, what your child likely craves is time together with you, so help them remember that it's coming.

It is totally normal for children to go through phases when they don't want to go to school. If you're concerned, talk to your child's teacher and ask if they seem happy and engaged once they're in the classroom.

To your child, be there to listen, to help when you can, and to reassure them that their feelings are natural and that they are so capable of facing the challenges of the school day, even when it seems hard.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

Our Partners

Most of the time, being inclusive isn't that hard. Actually, it's so easy, even 4-year-olds can grasp it. That's the message body acceptance activist and Instagram user Milly Smith wanted to share when she posted a photo of her son, Eli, explaining a very simple thing: "Some men have periods too. If I can get it, so can you."

Theoretically, it is easy to get the fact that non-binary people and some trans men menstruate. Usually, body-affirming hormone treatments stop them from menstruating, but that's not always the case. Sometimes their period will stop for years but make a surprise return for a variety of reasons, such as a medication change. Bodies like to keep us guessing like that.

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And yet, many of us, particularly cisgender people, fall back on our habitual ways of speaking about periods without even thinking about it. We have a hard enough time discussing menses as it is, so this may be one of the last vestiges of non-inclusive talk. When a young kid asks why mama is bleeding, the knee-jerk reaction could be to say, "It's just something that women do," hoping not to have to explain the finer points of sex and reproduction for a few more years.

But Smith is here to remind us not to do the knee-jerk thing.

"Eli has been told about periods since he saw blood on my pants a couple of years ago," Smith wrote on Instagram. "I didn't use the language of women have periods because it's not entirely inclusive. I told him that SOME women, SOME non binary people and SOME men have periods. It was easy for him to accept as he hadn't had to unlearn the engrained [sic] societal norm but if a 4-year-old can grasp it I'm sure most of us can have a crack at unlearning transphobic/misinformed norms and open our minds... ya think?"

Some corporations have begun to do their part to unlearn those gender stereotypes. According to PopSugar, Always announced in October that it was removing the Venus "female" symbol from its packaging. While the website for Thinx period underwear is still Shethinx.com, it has attempted to appeal to trans and nonbinary customers as well, referring to "people with periods." Last year, British period subscription service Pink Parcel launched a campaign that included trans man Kenny Jones as one of its spokespeople.

Sadly, a couple of ads and an Instagram featuring a cute kid have not quite solved the problem of transphobia in this world. Smith has turned off the comments on her post, probably because of negative backlash from the shining citizens of the internet. That's an upsetting reminder of how far we have to go.

But at least we can still enjoy Smith's concluding words, "It's not insulting to women, it's not discrediting women," she said of this change of wording. "It's opening up the community to make it a safe space for those who don't identify as women but still have periods."

The world isn't always black and white and it's time we start recognizing the beauty in accepting the grey areas.

News

Throughout my life, I have set really high standards for myself. I've always expected the absolute best. Inevitably, I set myself up for failure. Once I'd reached a goal, there was always a higher one to attain. I rarely stopped to enjoy and celebrate my successes. They always felt somehow anticlimactic. Instead, I wondered what I needed to set my sights on next.

I never stopped to wonder what I was trying to prove. And to whom.

It was only when I became a mom that I realized my pursuit of perfectionism couldn't continue.

Ironically, striving to be the perfect mom made me a worse mom.

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I couldn't achieve all the targets I set myself; I couldn't maintain the standards I had previously strived to meet. I couldn't work until I dropped.

Why?

Because my little one needed me.

My failed attempts at trying to complete household chores with a toddler in the room entailed that I had no choice but to let go of perfect. I didn't have control over things anymore: No matter how many parenting books I read, there was no manual for the unpredictable little creature who had abruptly transformed my life.

Striving to look like a supermodel wasn't even a remote possibility anymore (like it ever was?!), and I had to redefine what attaining a healthy body meant – losing pounds suddenly wasn't the most important thing anymore.

Suddenly, I needed to do things that I had previously perceived to represent procrastination and had, therefore, forbidden myself from doing… like taking care of myself. Relaxing. Napping.

I realized that if I continued trying to chase "perfect," I'd drive myself crazy. I'd drain myself. I'd break down. I'd scream and cry more often. I'd be the opposite of the role model I wanted to be for my daughter. I'd be the opposite of the calm, strong parent she needed. I'd be showing her that I couldn't make myself happy and that I would never be enough.

What's more, I wouldn't enjoy being a mom.

Our babies change so quickly. If we continually chase our shoulds, we kind of miss the fleeting moments of our babies' childhoods, the moments in which we make a connection with them.

That was exactly what I had been doing.

I recently made a list of all my shoulds, and the results scared me a little.

  • I should work more to achieve my business goals – I am constantly behind, especially compared to others.
  • I should write more – it is my passion, and my work and should be a priority after all.
  • I should be more active in social media
  • I should be a better steward of our finances and spend less money.
  • I should connect more with friends.
  • I should network more.
  • I should exercise more and be slimmer.
  • I should spend more time with my daughter.
  • I should spend more quality time with my husband.
  • I should be a more productive and efficient homemaker (an endless list of cleaning shoulds to feel guilty about).
  • I should educate myself more and learn to be a better parent.
  • I should be a better, more patient mom.

Yep… The list goes on.

However, one thing was particularly scary about my list of shoulds: I had to confront myself with the fact that I couldn't let myself be happy, couldn't let myself feel enough, couldn't let myself stop and enjoy life RIGHT NOW.

I was postponing my happiness, my life, my connection with my daughter.

I lived in the "if I do this, then ..." mode. If I am a better homemaker, a better parent, slimmer, had a more successful business…then. Then I can stop and relax. Then my life can start properly. Then I can be ... what? The perfect version of myself that would be allowed to be happy and be present? If I could just get all that work out of the way, I would have earned the trappings of perfectionism.

The problem is that there is always more work. There is always more to do. There is always someone else to compare me to. There is always the next thing I need to attain. There is always a new, better version of myself I'd need to become. Because nobody would say to me: "It's okay, it's enough. You've done it." I would have to be able to say that to myself. I would have to feel it.

In the meantime, my daughter would be missing the "mom right now." That was the only mom she needed. Me, because I was her mom, by design, however imperfect or unsuited for the job I felt.

Me, there, present.

Having realized all this, do I still read tons of parenting books and worry about what I should be doing? Sure.

Do I still have professional, personal, and even motherhood goals? Yes, most definitely.

I want to live my dreams and having goals is part of achieving this. However, I have contemplated to what end I want to reach those goals. I have defined what is important to me and what success actually looks like for me. And being present with my family and making a connection with my daughter is right at the top of that list. Breaking the habit of perfectionism is hard. So I make a habit of reminding myself every day: In motherhood, you need to find a balance between doing your best and giving yourself grace. You need to find joy in the imperfect now instead of waiting for the perfect "if I have achieved this, then" future.

You need to surrender.

Life

Is anyone else absolutely freezing right now? Seriously, this cold is the REAL DEAL. In addition to facing unbearable temperatures, parents have the extra challenge of entertaining their kids—and themselves—during the long and dark months of winter.

Heading outside is such an awesome activity for newborns through adults—but what happens when it is absolutely freezing? Can you still take your sweet little bundle outside?

The answer is: maybe.

Children, especially babies, are more sensitive to temperature changes than adults. “Because they are less able to regulate their body temperature than adults, children can quickly develop a dangerously low body temperature (ie, become hypothermic). Newborn infants are prone to hypothermia because of their large body surface area, small amount of subcutaneous fat, and decreased ability to shiver," says The American Academy of Pediatrics.

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So, you are not overreacting by being nervous about taking them outside! The good news is there are ways to do it safely.

How to dress your baby for the cold weather

To keep warm, layers are the key (for adults and babies). But, it's very important not to overheat your baby by putting on too many layers—since overheating is dangerous for babies, too.

The general rule of thumb is that your baby should be dressed in one more layer than you feel comfortable in. If you are good with one long sleeve shirt, your baby should probably have a long sleeve onesie, plus another shirt on top of it.

If you're going for a stroller walk, dress baby warmly, then add a blanket or footmuff to keep them all snuggled up.

When playing outside, in addition to a winter coat and warm pants or snow pants, don't forget a hat and mittens. The most vulnerable parts of a little body are their chin, nose, ears, fingers and toes.

Remember, babies should not wear a winter coat, very thick clothing or blankets under the straps of their carseats—the straps will not cinch tightly enough around the baby if they do, which is unsafe in a crash.

Temperature guide for babies in the winter

Extreme cold starts to become a factor when the temperature drops below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit). You can still go outside, but it should not be for very long.

Once temperatures start to drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it's best to stay inside if you can. Be sure to factor in wind chill when you're checking the weather—the wind can feel much, much colder, especially on sensitive baby skin.

When you're inside, the ideal temperature for your thermostat to be set at is 68-72 degrees. Remember that babies cannot have blankets (or anything) in the crib with them as it poses a risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you're concerned about baby being cold at night, we recommend sleep sacks!

What to watch out for

Keep a close eye on your baby (we know you always do) when you're playing outside. If you see any of these symptoms (from the Mayo Clinic) develop, give your pediatrician a call right away (or just call 911):

Hypothermia:

  • Shivering (note, babies don't shiver!)
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Clumsiness
  • Sleepy or very low energy
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Bright red, cold skin (in babies)

Frostbite:

  • Cold skin
  • Prickly, pins-and-needle feeling
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy skin
  • Clumsiness and stiffness
  • Blistering

A few other tips

  • Have an emergency kit in your car in case you break down. Edmunds has a great emergency kit list of things like blankets, flashlights, granola bars and bottled water. You'll also want to make sure your gas tank is near full and the car's maintenance is up to date to avoid issues.
  • Consider pre-warming your car, but NEVER in a garage—even an open one.
  • Protect everyone's skin with baby-safe lotion or balms
  • Consider using a cool-mist humidifier to keep baby's air moist

The bottom line

You can still go outside, you just have to be aware. Dress babies in layers, follow safe carseat guidelines, and watch closely for any signs that baby is too cold. Don't stay out for too long, and if it's less than 20 degrees out, avoid going outside at all (a quick walk to a preheated car is okay).

Hang in there, mama. This season can be hard. Go into hibernation mode, focus on some real self-care and snuggles, and before you know it, the flowers will be in bloom and you'll be spending every waking second outside.

Learn + Play

If you're still shopping for the school-age kids in your life, don't sweat. We've got you, mama! Whether you're looking for toys for your nieces and nephews or searching for gifts for your own little ones, we can help. Motherly's editors have been keeping track of the products that were hits in our own households so that we can pass them on to you.

Here are 21 gifts our older kiddos are loving right now, from clothes to crafts to toys:

eeBoo Never Forget a Face memory matching game

I never forget a face game

Memory games are a favorite at any age, but especially in this age's wheelhouse. Kids will love to test their memory skills as they match the bright, smiling faces of people from across the globe.

$18.95

Slumberkins

Each animal comes with a backstory that helps deal with a difficult emotion a child might encounter, like gratitidue, self-esteem or family changes or loss—making these a gift a child will adore and one mama feels good about, too. Prices vary.

$36

Osmo genius kit

osmo kit

Osmo is seriously magic! This game system transforms your iPad into a hands-on learning tool that fosters creativity and problem-solving skills through hands-on play. We so wish this was a thing when we were kids.

$99.99

The Nightmare Before Christmas Operation skill game 

The Nightmare Before Christmas Operation skill game

If your child has trouble picking up small things, try leaving this board game at under the tree. Your little one will think they are playing operation but really they are having some occupational therapy. It's a short enough game that even young kids are able to maintain attention and focus through everyone's turn. Super fun for fans of Jack Skellington.

$43.99

Pictionary air

Mattel Games Pictionary Air

Another awesome board game, Pictionary Air combines new tech and old fashioned family game night by letting kids draw on the air instead of on a big piece of paper. Using the special pen and an app, the fam can see exactly what you are drawing, combining augmented reality with creativity in the best way. So cool.

$16.88

Insect Lore butterfly farm 

butterfly farm

If your little one is obsessed with nature, this butterfly farm will be a the gift that keeps on giving. My 4-year-old and I had the best time raising and releasing butterflies this past spring. This is an experience gift that truly lasts, with little lift needed to maintain and raise the butterflies. Basically, it's my new go-to gift for preschoolers.

$27.99

Learning Resources microscope

Learning resources microscope

This is the perfect hands-on toy perfect for little STEM lovers. This microscope is durable enough to withstand kid's rough hands, but technical enough to feel like an awesome grown up toy.

$28.82

Cubcoats

cub coats

Cubcoats are super cute as toys and as clothing—yep, you read that right. This is a hoodie that folds up into a stuffed animal you child can take anywhere. Bonus points for being machine-washable, ethically made and having tons of character and animal options to choose from.

$33.75

Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Cone play set

Melissa & Doug Ice Cream

Melissa and Doug toys never disappoint and this magnetic ice cream play set is no exception. I cannot believe how many hours of play this set inspired. My kid is running an ice cream shop 24/7. Sometimes they ask me to be the customer, other times I'm on scoop duty. The magnetic scoops provide just the right amount of magic to make this set one of the most-played items in our toy box.

$28.31

Hanna Andersson pajamas

Hanna Anderson

We love these comfy pajamas. They are perfect for Christmas morning or any day of the year. And of course Hanna Anderson had matching adult sizes so the whole family can have a PJ party (or a great photo op).

$38.40

Parkland Little Monster backpack 

Parkland Little Monster Backpack

Parkland's Little Monster Backpack is sure to be a favorite (and maybe even a little motivation to get back into the school groove when the holiday break ends). Our little tester son loved getting a present he could show off at school. The backpack's fun ears and print were a big hit and the bag is big enough to carry everything he needs, but small enough for a Kindergartener to tote around.

$29.99

Pluffle

Pluffle

We love how many hours of play we can get out of one tube of Pluffle. It's the perfect tabletop activity and way less messy than slime. Kids can make anything with it and have fun watching it morph into different shapes without asking to wash their hands all the time. Win-win!

$31.41

Mr. Potato Head Mixable Mashable heroes

Mr. Potato Head Mixable Mashables

We love these Marvel potato heads because they allow kids to create their dream superhero however they choose. Our occupational therapist recommended these and when you combine this classic toy with the Marvel franchise, you have a winner for any superhero-obsessed child.

$47.65

Nugget couch 

Nugget couch

It's a couch. It's a fort. It's the perfect piece of furniture for the playroom. The Nugget is a convertible couch made of four foam pieces and it is the only piece of furniture the kids are allowed to jump on. Need we say more?

$229

Play Doh

Play Doh

You can do wrong with this classic that encourages your little one to create anything their imagination wants to. There is something super exciting about opening a giant box of rainbow Play-Doh.

$24.99

A kids book about...

We love how this book series tackles topics our kids are interested in (or that we want them to be interested in) in an age-appropriate way. Whether you're trying to teach your kids about creativity, money, or harder topics like racism, 'A kids book about' series can help. Bonus: the books are absolutely beautiful.

$25

BRIO classic deluxe railway set

This minimalist toy is a classic for a reason. It allows for independent play but also encourages cooperation and imagination, two things we value in our household.

$46.79

iTouch PlayZoom smartwatch for kids

This is a cute gift for a child who might be obsessed with their parent's smart watch. It lets them take pictures, videos, play games and tell time. It also comes in a bunch of super adorable prints (cats! camo!) and helps any big kid feel like they got something extra special

$29.99

VertiPlay STEM marble run

If you're looking for a new toy but short on floor space, may we recommend this awesome version of marble run that lives on your wall? It's a totally modular STEM toy that will have any little excited to see the marble zoom, bounce and slide down its ramps and curves. We've seen both 4-year-olds and 10-year-olds be super into this, so we love that it can grow with your child.

$89

PAW Patrol deluxe kids art table

​This is as multifunctional as a toy can get. It's part dry erase board, part bookshelf and part toy bin. Plus your ​Paw Patrol​ lovin' kid is going to adore seeing all their favorite pups daily in their playroom. It's a great piece for encouraging your kiddo's creativity and independent play.

$59.99

Wooden toy treehouse

This one is an investment gift for sure, but we can see it being the perfect group gift for a set of kids or a super special present if you're aiming to choose only one thing for your kiddo. Joanna Gaines can design anything, even treehouses apparently. Now our only question is—can she design one of these for our backyard?

$119.99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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