Today is our first day of school. I will have 22 little 4 year olds coming to spend the day with me, some of them leaving their parents for the very first time. One important thing to remember is that not all kids transition the same way. There will be some children who walk right in and get right into the thick of it. Some children will be apprehensive about this strange new environment. Today, I'm sharing some tips to help ease the transition for both parents and kids.
Before school starts:***Visit the school and meet the teacher. Tour the classroom and locate bathrooms, cubbies and centers that will spark interest. There are so many new experiences in the first few days that it really helps if the child is familiar with the room layout and the caregivers. Forming a bond between teacher and student can really help alleviate some of the child's fears.
***Take some pictures and make a social story powerpoint or book. Read it together often before the big day.
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***Talk it up! Talk to your child about what to expect. Remember that you may know all about what kids do in preschool, but to them, it's all new! Ask them if they have any fears, and discuss them.
A few great books about worrying about going to school are:
***Send in family pictures. Bringing a few familiar faces to keep in the cubby or displayed in the classroom can ease the transition considerably.
***Don't let the child see you upset. Often leaving little ones on the first day is more upsetting for parents than it is for the children. Children can sense when parents are upset and this will heighten their anxiety, making them uneasy about staying.
***Find a friend. As adults, we are always more comfortable when we have a friend along when in an uncomfortable situation. The same holds true for children.
***Find an engaging activity. A child who is engaged will likely focus on the activity and not the worry of separation.
***Use a picture schedule. Most preschool teachers have them in the classroom, but if not, you can easily make a small version to be put in your child's cubby. This will help your child visualize how much longer they have until they see Mom or Dad. "After snack, you'll have a story and then its time to go home!"
***Always say good-bye and reassure that you will be back. (This is an excellent time to use that picture schedule!)
At pick-up time:
***Pick up on time! Even a few minutes of anxiety worrying about Mom or Dad not being there can have a lasting effect.
***Plug in when picking up. Your child has spent an eternity (in their eyes :) without you and has so much to tell you about. Share the excitement with them. It will be contagious and they will be excited about returning the next day!
Transition tips for children in childcare moving to a new class:
The start of the school year is the time in our center when many of the kids transition to a new class. I thought I'd share a few tips for kids who are transitioning from one class to another in the same childcare center.
***Let the child visit the new class several times, increasing the amount of time each day. The first few times should be at a time when engaging activities are going on.
***Don't start the transition at drop off time. It's hard enough to transition to a new class, with added separation anxiety added in.
***If possible, have one of the current teachers visit with the children to the new class. Having a familiar caregiver helps when trying a new class filled with new teachers, classmates and surroundings.
Again, it's to remember is that there is no "magic formula" to determine the exact amount of time each child needs for transitioning. Some children will make a transition smoothly, while others will take longer. I hope these tips help provide a few tools to help make the best of this (sometimes) tough time.
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