As parents, we often feel like we are still in the middle of enjoying summer, when we are drawn in to thinking about ‘Back To School’ by the, advertisements for fall clothes, backpacks, school supplies, etc, as soon as August rolls around. For many children it is an important time to begin transitioning. Lots of children move seamlessly from one grade to another, change schools or make the leap from primary to middle school without any difficulty….but for most, transitions can be challenging. Parents can help, whether their child is making a small transition or a major one.
Start by asking your child some curiosity questions.
- “How do you think 4th grade will be different from 3rd grade?”
- “What’s the thing you are most looking forward to in middle school?”
- “Is there anything you are worried/anxious about, starting this new school?”
Acknowledge their feelings, without making judgment.
- “It can be scary starting a new grade.”
- “It sounds like you are excited about seeing your friends.”
- “You seem worried about the bus ride.”
Offer gentle support:
- “Let’s think of some things that will help you during your first week.”
- “Can we make a plan for getting ready in the morning?”
- “These changes can be hard – and no matter what know that I’m here for you and I love you.”
Set your child up for success:
- Visit the school. Check out the playground, other outdoor areas, check in at the office, and walk the hallways if you can.
- If you know other children who will be in your child’s class, remind your child of them.
- Ask parents who are familiar with your child’s teacher to share with you some information about him/her that you can then share with your child. “Mrs. Smith’s son Troy was in Ms. Williams class last year – she said that Ms. Williams has 4 dogs, and loves art’.
- Let your child have control over as much as you can: choosing their own school supplies, the backpack they will use, the clothes they will wear on the first day.
- Begin having your child go to bed earlier and get up earlier by mid-August so that when that ‘First Day’ rolls around, they will be ready for the new schedule.
- On the first day of school, get up extra early so that you and your child can have a relaxed breakfast. Talk with your child about any feelings they may be having.
- Give choices. “Would you like me to walk you to your classroom, or shall we say goodbye at the car?”
Transitions can be hard for adults too. Take care of yourself and maintain a positive attitude.
You know your own child. Try to have the kind of goodbye you think he or she will need. Some kids want a quick hug, and others might need a few minutes of cuddle time before getting out of the car.
There are lots of children’s books about starting school that you can read with your child during the remaining days of summer. Here are a few: