Tips for Easy Back-to-School Transitions
The summer is just about over. No more going to bed late, sleeping in every morning, or playing outside until dark. Now the routine has to change. Beginning kindergarten, going back to primary school, or to a child care program usually means two things to a young child: 1) a stricter time schedule; and 2) adapting to a different caregiver, classroom, teacher, school, friends, or academic challenges. These new experiences can bring on stress or cause children to resist necessary adjustments. Even as adults, we sometimes feel uncomfortable or anxious when facing a new situation. Think how overwhelming it must be for young children who have far less experience in dealing with the unknown! Smooth transitions can be accomplished if the adults who care for children try to view the situation from the child's perspective. Here are some tips on what you can do to make going back to school a pleasurable experience.
Prepare in advance
Young children always feel more comfortable if they know what to expect. Before the new school year begins, family members can explain to children how their daily routines will change. Precisely describe what the morning routines will be in age-appropriate terms. Some children may enjoy creating a pictorial chart to include each step of the morning schedule.
Try getting up earlier a couple of days before the new school year begins and explain why you're doing it. This may prevent your child from being confused, groggy, cranky, or refusing to get out of bed on the first day of the new program.
Discuss how the school or child care environment will be different from the previous year. Many schools and child care professionals invite families to visit the classroom and new teacher before the school year begins. If possible, take advantage of these opportunities to allow the child to meet the teacher or caregiver, find his classroom, the bathroom, and the playground. These one-hour visits can be valuable to children because they'll be exposed to their new surroundings and still find comfort in going home with a familiar adult or loved one. Make the visit extra special by going out for ice cream or to the park afterwards.
Reading books with children is a great way to introduce any experience. They can see how other children beginning school or a new program have the same feelings of uncertainty and how they overcome them.
Involve children in preparing for school. For example, they can lay out their clothes, pack a back pack, or select a favorite toy or photo to take with them to the program.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. © 2008 NAEYC
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