It doesn’t seem like it should be that time of year again, but it is nearly back-to-school time. It is time for children to change classrooms, go to school for the first time, or graduate up to the next room at childcare. For older children this may be old hat and they can’t wait to get back to their friends and favorite subjects or activities.
For younger children, heading to group care or kindergarten for the first time, it can be a scary experience. They are letting go of what is familiar to them and going into something that is full of uncertainty and change.
Every child’s temperament and ability to adjust is different, but there are some common issues care providers, teachers, and parents see this time of year.
Children get into a routine and that is their whole world, so when that world changes drastically – as it does when moving to a new classroom or away from the care provider they’ve known – it can cause them to become anxious about other things changing.
There are several things you can do to help ease the transition and their anxiety. First, be patient and offer support and guidance. The best way to do this is by working with parents and current caregivers prior to the start of the school year to help plan smoother transitions. A few ideas:
- A few weeks before school plan a classroom visit with parents and children
- Provide parents information that they can share with children on what to expect in their new classroom or environment
- Send a letter of introduction to the children who will be joining you for the first time. Make it fun and colorful.
- Let children know they may experience fear and sadness with the change and that it is okay to feel that way.
Recommended book: Mama’s Gloves
Making new friends
Children enjoy playing with each other, but it can be scary to make new friends. Many children worry that they won’t be able to make friends in their new classroom. Talking to children about this fear is a great place to start. Provide parents with a list of children’s books about making friends and have them talk to their child about how they will have new people to play with.
Once the class list is finalized, consider organizing a picnic or “play date” on the school playground so children can meet each other with their parents there and in a setting they may feel less anxiety in.
Group care settings and kindergarten may be more structured than children are use to. They will feel less anxious if they hear what is and is not expected of them in this new setting. For example, they are expected to sit in a circle and listen to stories, but they are not expected to find their own way to the lunchroom.
Prior to the first day of school send parents a note about the schedule for the first day of class. They can share it with their child and talk to them about the fun things they will do and learn. Ask children what they think their day will be like once they are in their new classroom. This allows them to share their feelings and for you to ease some of their anxiety and get them excited about the things they will do.
A few other resources that you will enjoy: Is Everybody Ready for Kindergarten?, Getting Ready for Kindergarten (a great pamphlet to give to parents to help them prepare at home), and I’m Going to Kindergarten!
Good luck with the new school year!