Preparing for the transition: Preparing before the start of the school year
Most children transition to school from daycare or directly from home. Both of these environments are usual environments for children, in which they have thrived and developed, before moving on to the next stage. The transition to school can be smoother when it occurs gradually, before the start of school. This transition will give your child a better idea of what to expect and where their new daily routine will be, which will help reduce the anxiety some children may feel about the changes. To help guide this transition, here are some tips:
Talk about it!
One of the most important things is to talk about it with your child! This strategy applies to any changes that may occur in the child’s life, regardless of age. Talking about the changes allows the child to get used to the idea that a change is coming and reduces the element of shock when he or she starts a new routine. Some key things you can talk about are how the child will get to and from school, for example: if he or she will be taking the bus, going to daycare or a babysitter, if you will be carrying him or her directly or if he or she will be walking. You can talk about the different elements that will take place during the day, such as times for eating, playing and learning. Also, invite the child to share with you what he or she is looking forward to! This can serve as a very useful reference for those days when the transition will be more difficult. Discuss outdoor playtime, recess and activities your child wants to do! Talk about the children he or she will meet and the friendships they will make. Share with your child the differences in the routine and invite your child to share their feelings. By including your child in the conversation, talking to him or her often and asking for their input, you will better understand how he or she feels about this change and can act accordingly to coach him or her well, so that your child will feel more secure and included in the transition and through these changes.
Another less obvious aspect is to take the time to teach your child to identify his or her belongings. When your child is at school, he or she will be responsible for his or her backpack, lunch box, etc., which he or she will need to bring to school and take home. Start by identifying your child’s belongings, including clothing, and show him or her how to spot this identification. This will come in handy if things get scattered or mixed up with someone else’s belongings. Take the time to ask your child about his or her personal belongings. For example, ask him or her what his or her backpack, lunchbox, indoor and outdoor shoes and water bottle look like. This will make it easy for your child to locate his or her belongings and will also work on his or her cognition!
If your child’s school is close to home, take the time to visit it a few times so that your child can get used to the new environment. It can be as simple as walking around the front of the school and identifying it, or as complex as taking a tour to explore the schoolyard and playground. If your child’s school offers it, also take advantage of in-person or virtual tours to get to know what the inside of the school looks like.
Another strategy that can help relieve anxiety is to make connections with the school and people. The connections to the school are to talk about it, identify its elements and visit it, as mentioned. If possible, using the staff directory on the school website, look at staff photos to make the faces more familiar to your child. If photos are not available, you can always ask the school to see if any can be sent your way. This also applies to children who will be riding the bus or going to daycare. As faces become a little more familiar, children feel more confident and secure about the people they will meet on the first day of school.