As summer winds down, there can be some anxiety around starting a new school year. Younger children may be moving into a new classroom within our schools, older children may be starting at a new, bigger school. Not only are these moments stressful for them, but they can also cause some unsettling feelings to parents and families as well.
To ensure a successful transition it’s important to prepare! Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Create new goodbye rituals and routines. Talk about and practice the new routine of arriving at school with your child.
- For example: “When we get to school, I will drop you off at the door and one of the adults will come and greet you. At the end of the day, it will be my turn to come and greet you at the door to take you home.”
- It is important to show your child that you trust the teacher/caregiver.
- Identify a transition object. This can be as simple as a photo of your family or a favorite stuffed animal to keep in their cubby. This gives them visual reassurance that they can always see the people or things they might be missing at home.
- Accept your child’s feelings. Sometimes, while trying to make our child feel better, we inadvertently dismiss their feelings only further adding to the complex moment.
- Try to avoid saying things like: “Don’t cry,” “Preschoolers don’t cry,” and “We are big kids now, not babies!” It’s important to be encouraging.
- Acknowledge their feelings. “I know you’re sad I have to go. Do you want to hold your teddy bear until you’re ready to play?” or “Sometimes I feel sad when I have to leave too, but I get to see you again later and that makes me happy.”
- Mentally prepare for the next day. At the end of the day or before bedtime, talk to your child about their day and what they did at school. Ask them what their favorite part was and what they might be excited to play with or do tomorrow. This will help your child to focus on positive experiences at school as well as give them something to look forward to.
As always, partner with your child’s teacher to build trust and positive relationships from the start. Just like adults, children will be more successful if they feel a sense of trust and belonging within their community—in school and life.