It’s that time of year again. Back to school is an exciting time for many. However, what if it is not “back” to school? What if it is your child’s first day of school (or even daycare)? Excitement might be paired with anxiety, sadness, and fear for both children and their parents. School is a big change for little children and can be quite intimidating! The good news is that there are tried and true ways to ease the transition for everyone. Here are 3 tips to beat the “New to School” blues for your child and for you.
Prepare and Plan
One of the scariest aspects is the newness of it all. School means a new environment, routine, expectations, and new people. The “newness” means unpredictability. Children strive for predictability to feel secure and safe. You can help by making the new environment predictable. Some suggestions that I've found to work include reading books about school, looking at pictures of children going to school, talking about fun things that your child will do, talk about who your child will encounter. Try to talk about school with your child daily for a week or two before the transition. Your child may not quite understand everything that you are saying, but the names of activities and people will be more familiar when he or she encounters them in the new environment.
Take a Piece of Home with You
Another way to make the new environment a little more familiar is to have a transition item/activity for them to take to school. Sometimes, just having a little something that is familiar can be comforting. Transition items can include favorite stuffed animal, book, or picture. Be sure to check with your child’s teacher to make sure he or she is on board.
Drop and Go
When the big day comes, you need to have a plan on how the transition will occur. You may be feeling overwhelmed with emotion and your child can sense when you are anxious. Try to be a positive as possible when making the transition. The first day starts the routine of how transitions to the environment will go in the future. It is best to bring your child in, give them a hug with quick reassurances that you will be back to get them, and then walk out the door. This may be the hardest tip to implement. Your child may cry and your natural instinct may be to go back each time and comfort them. What your child learns is: “I cry, Mommy comes back, and I get more time with Mommy”. This can be really motivating to your child but it can also make it more difficult when you finally leave. When I was a teacher, I used to think “Don't parents realize that this is actually makes the transition more difficult?” What I learned the first day I dropped my child off at school is that maternal instinct is so much stronger than what I knew to be true as a teacher. It literally felt like a mountain grew heavier on my shoulders with every step I took towards the door. It helped when I peeked in the window two minutes later and saw that my son had calmed down and was playing!
At the end of the day, this transition may cause a variety of emotions for both you and your child. That is totally appropriate! Give yourself some time, transition to school is not easy but it does get better!
Remember to consider what works best for you and your child! No one strategy will be a good fit your every family. Your strategies should fit your needs and comfort level! If your child is having difficulty transitioning or participating in daily routines are you have concerns about his or her development, we can help! Remember, Babies Can’t Wait! Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB: Find us on Facebook or on the web at http://www.racsb.state.va.us/