My oldest son started the 2nd grade a few weeks ago, and on his very first day, we did a secret handshake that we’d invented on his first day of kindergarten. It’s a goofy, inside joke thing, and it never fails to my make both me and my son bust out laughing every time, which was why we came up with it in the first place. Sometimes, no matter how brave a kid may be, he (or she) will still miss Mom and Dad on that first day of school. All the unknowns of a new teacher, a new classroom, and new set of rules and expectations can be stressful on a kid.
U.K. mom of three Louise Mallett knows exactly what I am talking about here. She recently lit up the Internet with a wonderfully clever and heartfelt parenting hack of her own — one that not only soothed her son Max on his first day of school, but has also turned into an instant family tradition.
“My son was very emotional and the idea just rolled off my tongue as I was trying to cheer him up before we left the house,” Mallett tells Babble. “He had told me on his first half-session he cried because he missed me, so I told him I had a magical power as his mummy and I could share it with him. His little face was a picture of excitement and wonder as I explained to him that if I put a heart on his hand and mine, [whenever] he was feeling sad and needed a hug, he could press it and I would feel it and press mine back and he’d get a big hug.”
Isn’t that brilliant! I wish I had thought to do something as simple and meaningful like this for my son when he was sad on his first day.
“He soon forgot his tears and was excited to receive his heart (we had to put a spare on his arm in case it wore off and today we had to do 4!) at the end of the day I asked him if he got my hugs and he excitedly said ‘yep! I pressed mine really hard but I didn’t cry’ and I told him how I had felt a really big squeeze and sent one straight back to him!”
I’m not the only mom who let out an audible “Aww!” at this one, though — Mallett first shared the story on the private Facebook page of a U.K.-based parenting site called The Motherload, where it hit home with moms everywhere.
“I’m in shock, other parents have been in tears reading it,” Mallet tells Babble. “Starting school is such a big milestone for both the parent and the child so I think it has caused a lot of emotions to be felt and shared.”
Mallet says that many parents have also tried it with their own kids after reading her post, and while they’d once been sending them off to school in “floods of tears,” they are now “happy and excited to go in.”
“It really is an incredible bond between parent and child,” she continues. “I never imagined it would have as much of a reaction as it has but every time I read a comment about how it’s worked for someone else, I well up and I few so humbled that I’ve helped so many children in those first few scary days!”
The trend is taking off among kids, too. In fact, Mallett tells Babble that her son Max shared it with someone special: “His ‘girlfriend’ knows and she has joined in with her mummy, and his teachers know about it and they love it but he said he hasn’t told his friends as it’s our special secret!”
Honestly, this is a fantastic and heartwarming little idea, and I for one will be remembering it when it comes time for my two youngest kids for to finally start school.