Thoughtful Parenting: A new school
The end of summer is often a time of transition, especially for the youngest children in our community. Kids may be saying goodbye to familiar teachers and friends and hello to the next age level of teachers and friends. Starting a new school or a new classroom can cause some children (and parents) anxiety. Separation anxiety is a normal reaction. Transitions from home to school can be hard for anyone. Parents can help ease these transitions with a variety of strategies.
Have a morning drop-off routine. Walk into the classroom, wash your hands, sign-in, give a hug and kiss, say “see you after two outside times” (or whatever the daily schedule includes), and walk away with a smile on your face. Know that your child’s teachers will comfort your small loved one if there are any tears. The longer a parent prolongs a distraught goodbye, the longer it will take the child to recover equilibrium.
Consider a visit just a week or two before your child begins in a new school or classroom. You can visit the program or ask a teacher to visit your child at home.
Make a big deal about buying new school clothes or a backpack because your child is getting older. And being older means keeping old friends but also making new friends.
Write and illustrate a social story about this new situation. The story could include pictures or photos of getting ready for school, entering the classroom, washing hands, hugging the parent goodbye, waving at the window or door, then playing a favorite activity like blocks, playdough or dress-up. Reading this book or social story repeatedly, at least daily, will help to ease the transition. More scripted stories for social situations can be downloaded for free from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning website, csefel.vanderbilt.edu/resources/strategies.html.
Role-play the drop-off routine or play school at home, practicing how the new day will unfold. Invite a friend who will also be in your child’s new classroom.
Always say goodbye, no matter how tempting it may be to sneak quietly away. Check with your child’s new teacher and see if a transitional object from home is allowed. This could be a stuffed animal, blanket or photo that helps your child feel more comfortable. The child can hug it when they are missing family. Be aware, though, you may need to bring it back and forth each day to not be without it at home. Leaving it overnight at school can be a whole other separation anxiety-inducing incident.
The most important factor of a new classroom are the relationships. The relationship between your child and his/her teachers and peers, as well as the relationship you develop with school faculty, will be the most valuable component in your child’s new school year success.
Tami Havener is Executive Director of the Family Development Center, which includes Discovery Learning Center. Discovery Learning Center is a child care center with preschool and prekindergarten classrooms. Call 970-879-5973 to learn about limited openings still available for the upcoming school year.
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