How Can I Help My Child Make a Smooth Transition Back to School?
Transitioning back to school or entering school for the first time can be a challenge for some children. This year looks different than any other school year in recent history. What happens when you have established routines, but you are still having difficulty with behavior and transitions? We are going to discuss some things you can do to help your child make a smooth transition back to school.
Now that school is upon us, setting routines will help make the transition go as smoothly as possible. So how do we do that? First, a smooth transition into the classroom starts at home the night before. A solid bedtime routine which includes proper rest helps the morning transition to go smoothly.
It is important to establish a bedtime routine that allows your child to be properly rested. The Sleep Foundation recommends that a child between 1-2 years old get 11-14 hours of sleep per day. Most toddlers still take naps so some of that time includes napping, but the rest is required at night for a happy, well-rested child. A preschool age child requires 10-13 hours of sleep per day, which may also include some hours napping. Depending on when your child needs to wake up each morning should determine their bedtime. Remember, that is an average and all children are different.
Bedtime routines may look different for every family. The important thing is that you find what works best for you. Some examples include, taking a bath, playing soft music, reading books, saying prayers, and dim lighting. Try to start your routine at the same time each night to establish a foundation.
Once your bedtime routine is established you need to set a morning routine. Keep it simple but consistent. It is important to talk to your child about your routine so they can begin to understand what comes next. If your have a younger child, using a picture schedule may help them understand time. Singing songs even made up ones that go with your routine is a great way to help your child remember, and it makes it fun too! Keeping your routine consistent will help build security and lessen anxiety. Proper nutrition is also important for a great start to their school day.
Once you have set routines at home your child should be more at ease and able to better handle the transition to their classroom. Preparing your child in advance for what to expect will help them feel more at ease. Role- playing is a great way to help your child become comfortable with a new setting and routine. Spend some time pretending to “play school” and discuss some things they can expect like, circle time, meeting new friends, snack time, and learning new things. Children learn through play, so role playing is a great way to help your child be ready for school.
What happens when you have established routines and your child is still having difficulty getting dressed or leaving the house? What can we do to remedy these situations? One option is to use “first-then” statements”, which means you offer the “non-preferred” activity first, and the “preferred” activity second. For example, “first we get dressed, then we can play with your trains.” If you have a time limit on the reward portion of the statement, then add that in too. Another thing you can do is to set timers to help your child move from one activity to the next. If your child is taking too long to get dressed or eat their breakfast, use a timer. Tell them when they hear the timer go off they need to_____________, and then let them know what the next thing they need to do is so you can stay on time. Time warnings also help children know what to expect. Be sure to give enough time for your child to complete one task before expecting them to move on to the next task.
So, what causes this difficulty with transitions and behavior? Separation anxiety is behind many of these difficulties. The American Heritage® dictionary of medicine defines it as “a child’s apprehension associated with separation from a parent or other caregiver”. Young children often do not have the verbal skills to explain how or why they are feeling afraid, so their apprehension comes out in not wanting to separate from parents or familiar adults. This can make the transition to school or other new environment a challenge. There are several ways to ease separation anxiety, but one easy option is to have a specific goodbye routine that you do every time. To be effective, you need to be consistent and stick to the plan. For example, give your child a kiss or hug and say goodbye. That is it, don’t drag it out. Decide in advance what you are going to do, then explain it to your child. In time they will come to understand, and it will ease the anxiety.
Over the next several months we will be writing on different relevant topics to help you in your parenting journey. Some topics include, “how much independence should a
toddler/preschooler have?”, “rewards vs. bribes, what is the difference?”, and potty-training tips. Our goal is that we can provide you with advice that will help your child grow and flourish. If there are topics you would like to see discussed, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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C. (n.d.). Separation Anxiety in Preschoolers. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.preschool-plan-it.com/separation-anxiety.html
Day, N. (2020, January 23). 8 Strategies That Help Children Transition With Ease. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://hes-extraordinary.com/make-transitions-easier
How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need? (2020, August 14). Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-much-sleep-do-kids-need