Congratulations! You and your child are beginning an exciting year!
Each child adjusts to school in his or her own way. Some children act no different or are thrilled to be a “big kid” who goes to school. It is not unusual, though, that these very same children may cry or cling to mom or dad at times, too. Children may have delayed reactions that occur several weeks into the school year. They might wet the bed or suck their thumbs because there’s comfort in returning to younger ways. Many children will at least be tired the first weeks of school as their bodies and minds adjust to stepping-out into the wider world of kindergarten.
Young children, by nature, are becoming more independent and interested in people outside of the family. Entering school is a positive change – but even good change requires some getting used to. How can families help?
- Celebrate your child’s entry into school. For example, you might mark the occasion with a special family meal, photo of your child on the first day or story about your first day of school.
- Expect the best yet accept whatever your child’s reaction is to beginning school. There are no right or wrong reactions just different ones. In time, children do make the transition and your child’s teacher will keep you informed, work as a partner with you and help your child adjust.
- Maintain your child’s school attendance unless he or she is ill. An adult can acknowledge a child’s desire to stay home, yet still send the child to school. You’d like to stay home today. I’m concerned you’ll miss the story your teacher will read to the class. When you get home, I’ll ask you to tell me about that story. Give choices where you can…Would you like to wear your red or blue shirt, today?
- Refer to school as a place your child “gets to go” not has to go.
- Do not threaten children about what will happen at school if they misbehave. Do share your expectations for positive behavior.
- Do not tell children that they “must” know their ABC’s or some other specific skill in order to go to school. Doing so can cause children to become anxious about school or afraid of teachers. Do help your child develop thinking and talking skills in the most positive playful ways.
- Take advantage of chances to visit school with your child even before the school year begins. Participating in registration and orientation, visiting the school playground during the summer and attending fall open house and other events go a long way to helping your child feel comfortable at school.
- Provide your child with a consistent schedule at home. Change is easier when it occurs within a framework of order. Even though the beginning of the school year is hectic, keep family mealtimes and other schedules. Children find routines reassuring such as: take a bath, put on pajamas, brush teeth, read a book with a parent and get tucked-in.
Sometimes, the beginning of school is harder on parents than children. Children get to come to school and do exciting things. Parents “get to” wonder what children are doing! This is especially difficult if the child was upset or crying when the parent last saw him or her. The irony is that almost always within five to 10 minutes of entering the classroom, the child is participating happily! Teachers are skilled at helping children quickly feel secure and get involved. Contact the teacher if you have questions or insights you want to share about your child’s adjustment.
Congratulations on this important milestone in your child’s life – starting school! Give yourself a pat on the back, too. Your school staff will work closely with you to make it a great year!
Kellye R. Wood, Ed. S. is the Early Childhood director for Oakland Schools.