Transitioning to school is one of the biggest steps our children take on their journey through childhood. The routines change, the faces you see each day change, the clothes and shoes change and even the play equipment and games all seem new and different. Some children adapt to all the “new” things with ease, yet for others this transition can take a little longer. As parents and caregivers, one of the most heartbreaking things can be when your child doesn’t seem to be settling into school life as quickly and easily as you had hoped. Rest assured there are lots of things you can do and many years of experience (as a teacher and a mother) have taught me...be patient...they will get there.
Firstly, to help your child transition, ensure you are establishing good routines. Speak positively about school and have clear routines so the day is predictable for your child. Sometimes it is the unknown that is the scariest part for your child. Talk a little about what will be happening during the day. Sometimes a small treat in their lunchbox gives them something to look forward to at lunch time. Ensure your child has a good sleep pattern as things seem more challenging when children are overtired.
Another critical element is to have a very clear drop-off and pick-up routine. It is unlikely to help your child if you linger around the classroom in the morning. It is difficult to walk away from your child when they are crying or distressed. However, prolonging your goodbye will only make it worse. Be assured that the teaching professionals you’ve entrusted your children to will take good care of your precious child. Teachers will call you if your child doesn’t settle so know they won’t be distressed like that all day.
Engaging the support of school staff will also help your child to settle. Classroom teachers, teacher aides, counsellors, deputy principals and many other school staff have a depth of experience in supporting children to transition. There are numerous strategies that can be employed from being the “teacher’s helper”, to distract from the sadness around leaving Mum or Dad, or being given an “important job”; having a photo in the child’s pocket so they don’t feel so far away can also prove helpful in the early days.
Focussing on the positives and celebrating the small successes will assist your child to make the transition to school. Instead of asking “How was your day?” ask “What was the best thing that happened today?” There is a lot of research around positive psychology and mindset that suggests by changing our vocabulary slightly will make a big difference to our young people.
Lastly, acknowledge this can be a challenging time but is part of the journey. Take it one day at a time and seek support from your network (Tim Tams and tissues with other parents after school drop off work a treat!) Your child will survive and thrive. One step at a time and before you know it, they will be in the groove of school.