Transition times, such as beginning a new school year, or starting preschool, can be difficult for kids and parents alike. We’re all creatures of habit, and change can often bring stress.
What can parents do to prepare their children, and themselves, for transition to a new routine?
We asked an expert: Claire Haas is a teacher and mother of two who also serves as the Vice President of Education for Kiddie Academy, an education-focused child care provider. She gave us the following tips.
Take it Slow
Children are especially driven by routine, as it helps them to make sense of a world full of new experiences. This is not the time for a “rip the band-aid off” approach. Introduce new routines slowly, a step at a time.
Create a countdown calendar, leading up to the first day of school. This can be a full art project, or something as simple as a stack of scrap papers stapled together, starting with the number of days left before school begins. Hang it up in the kitchen as a visual reminder, and let your children rip off the top sheet each day to give them a better understanding of the time left before the big day.
Spend the last 2 weeks of summer easing the kids and your family into their new routine. For example, start with serving dinner at the same time you would during the school year and slowly adjusting bedtimes by one half hour, every other day.
Read About It
Visit the library with your child, and search for books about classrooms, teachers, recess and other school-related topics. Read them together, giving your child a chance to ask questions and review any concerns.
Visit Ahead of Time
Take your child to visit to the school. Even if you cannot enter the building, walk around and explore. Point out drop off and pick up locations and visit the playground.
Gather the bag of “stuff” you need to provide (a change of clothes, school supplies, etc.) early. Knowing that your child will have everything he or she needs will ease your stress. This will also eliminate the first day scramble for you, and allow you to focus on your child instead of markers and extra socks.
Plan a two-part first day of school celebration. To begin, parents could gather after drop-off to share a cup of coffee with others who have survived that first hectic morning. After school, take your child for a special treat such as ice cream, and review the day, sharing in his or her enthusiasm or addressing any concerns.
For more tips, parents can visit the Kiddie Academy Family blog.