There are things you can do to help children transition to a new school with many unknowns and expectations. Some children will adapt quickly to a classroom filled with strangers and new rules, while others will be cautious and need time to feel comfortable and safe. Leaving a nurturing pre-school teacher, parent, grandparent, or nanny is a big change and developmental task for all children. Here’s some food for thought as you prepare yourself and your child for change.
1. Understand Your Child’s Temperament
Temperament is a child’s natural response to the world. Some children love new situations, people, and adventures and will kiss you good-by and happily explore the classroom. If your child is sensitive and slow-to-adapt you’re likely to deal with clinging, tears, and other signs of worry or even out-and-out panic. Reflect on your child’s behavioral style and be prepared. To do a free on-line temperament assessment to help you be pro-active, go to www.preventiveoz.org.
2. Attend To What You Say And How You Listen
Present the idea of Kindergarten in a positive light, with enthusiasm and some specific things your child will do and learn. Don’t let children hear you express your concerns about the teacher or curriculum. Kids pick up on the anxieties and fears adults feel. Read books and play games about school and give children a chance to ask questions. In your desire is to have things go well, don’t dismiss their feelings. Acknowledge and accept concerns, and give reassurance that the school is ready for them.
3. Visit The School, Playground, And Potential Schoolmates
During the summer visit the school, even if you can’t go in. Walk around the yard and talk about what you see. If the school is open show your child the bathrooms and other important landmarks. If you can get a list of students try to set up a picnic or potluck so children can meet before the first day. This is particularly helpful for children who are introverted or are new to the area without friends. It’s also a great way for parents to meet. Arrange a play date with classmates before school starts.
4. On the First Day
Feed children a healthy breakfast after a good night sleep. Follow cues regarding how long to stay at your child’s side in the classroom. When you say good-by it’s important to leave without making a big deal. Do your best to hold back your tears for when you’re out of sight. If children feel apprehensive and want to bring something from home, let them put it in their backpack. Tell them when you’ll be picking them up, and spend a little time playing on the yard with your child when school is out.
By Rona Renner, RN. For information, inspiration, and shows, go to http://www.childhoodmatters.org. Tune into “Childhood Matters,” Sundays at 7AM live on 98.1KISS FM.