Back to School Time -- Tips to Help Children Adjust
Back to school time often means changes for children and
families: the first day of kindergarten or first grade; new
preschools or child care settings; new classrooms and new
teachers. Making smooth transitions between home, programs and
schools can help children feel good about themselves and teach
them to trust other adults and children. Helping children adapt
to new situations can ease parentsí minds and give them a chance
to become involved in their children's education.
Transitions are exciting opportunities for children to learn and
grow. Parents and early childhood professionals share a role in
making children feel safe and secure as they move to new
educational settings. Of course, such milestones in children's
lives can cause anxiety, too. Strengthening the ties between
programs and families will help create smooth transitions for
adults and children both.
How parents can help:
1. Be enthusiastic about the upcoming change. If you are excited
and confident, your child will be, too.
2. Prepare yourself. Take note of how your child reacts to
separation. If possible, visit the new setting with your child.
Introduce your child to the new teacher or early childhood
professional in advance.
3. Arrange a playdate with another child from the program,
preferably one-on-one, so that your child will see a familiar
face when she walks in.
4. Start daily routines that will add to continuity. Let your
child become involved with packing lunch or laying out clothes.
Also, begin an earlier bedtime several weeks before.
5. Put aside extra time, particularly on the first day, for
chatting and commuting together. But remember not to prolong the
good-bye. If the child whines or clings, staying will only make
6. Always say good-bye to your child. Be firm, but friendly
about separating. Never ridicule a child for crying. Instead,
make supportive statements like, "it's hard to say good-bye."
7. At the end of the work day, put aside your concerns and focus
on being a parent.
How teachers or early childhood professionals can help:
1. Make sure activities are developmentally appropriate for
children. Interesting and challenging, but doable, activities
will help children feel comfortable in their new setting.
2. Make an effort to get to know each individual child as
quickly as possible. Parents can provide information about
children's likes, dislikes, and special interests.
3. Welcome suggestions from families, particularly those of
children with special needs. Parents can offer specific
suggestions they have found useful for their own child, and
advise on classroom set-up and modifications.
4. Hold an orientation for children and parents. Small groups
will make it easier for children to get to know each other.
5. Show children around the new school or program, introducing
them to other adults who are there to help them become
6. Create partnerships between pre-schools and elementary
schools in the community. Meetings may focus on the sharing of
ideas and concerns.
7. Set up an area for photos of parents and family members that
children may "visit" throughout the day. Also include items that
reflect the cultural experience of all children to help promote
a sense of mutual respect and understanding. Children, just like
adults, need time to adjust to new people and situations.
Experience can make transition a bit easier, but even with
experience, change can still be stressful. Patience and
understanding on the part of parents and teachers or caregivers
will help children learn how to approach new situations with
confidence -- a skill that will help them make successful
transitions all through life.
Source: National Association for the Education of Young Children
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NAEYC 1509 16th St., NW
Washington, DC 20036-1426
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