The Teacher is Talking: Back-to-School Transitions

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By Leslie Lindsay

Whether your child is started a new grade or new school, there are bound to be a lot of transitions.  Here’s a fast guide to helping your kiddo navigate the new things that may be coming down the pike (and if you read last week’s post on anxiety, you’ll understand how transitions and stress go hand in hand.  The more you know, the better the transition). 

A year ago, my then-kindergarten student was all bubbles and sunshine about her upcoming kindergarten experience.  We went to the open-house, meet-the-teacher nights, and all seemed good to go.  Even the the first day offered easy sailing.  It wasn’t till the third or fourth day that she completely refused to get in the school bus.  I mean, really refused.  She clung to me and kicked her legs, “I am not going to school today.”  It held up the line of other kindergartners and their parents as they said their final good-byes at the bus stop.  I scratched my head and worried what could possibly be going on.  Was her teacher mean?  Did someone say or do something that hurt her–emtionally or physically?  I didn’t know…

Growing up–and well into college, I had a friend who literally made herself ill around the beginning of school. 

Turns out, this behavior is quite common among all kids; of course, some may deal with it differently than others depending on their developmental age.   At the heart of these transitions is the word CHANGE.

Some navigate change quite well, others fight it miserably.  Thoughts that may be going through your child’s mind:

  • “Will I be good enough (at academics, making friends, sports)?”
  • “Who will be in my class?” 
  • “How will I get around the school building?  Will I have enough time between classes (especially if going to junior high/middle school).” 
  • “What will my teacher be like?” 

You can start now by talking with your child(ren) and sharing with them that change is a part of life.  It’s important, too to emphasize your child’s growing independence. 

Review the things your child was able to do last year in school or socially and then expand on that.  “When you were in kindergarten, you were just learning how to write your name.  Now, not only can you write your first and last name beautifully, but you can also write sentences, too…I wonder what kinds of things you’ll be able to do in first grade?!” Or, my favorite, “When you were born, you couldn’t do much of anything by yourself…now you can rollerskate, read, write your name, play soccer.  It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.” (image source: www.123rf.com on 8.6.13)

You’ll want to re-institute regular routines, including meals, bedtime, bathtime, and studytime at home before school starts.  Get into the habit of eating meals at the same time, waking up and going to bed at “school-like” hours (they don’t have to be exact).  Also, try wedging in slices of “study time.”  This can be as simple as reading hour (or half-hour), workbook time, cards/flashcards, etc.  Minimize TV and movies. 

Often, transitions and change are “scary” to a child who doesn’t know what to expect.  Make sure you familiarize yourself with school forms, events, and procedures.  Share some of it with your child (offering too much information will overwhelm them). 

By preparing bit by bit and early, you and your child(ren) should be ready for a successful day of school. 

For more information about school transitions, refer to this article from NASP (National Assoc. of School Psychologists): http://www.nasponline.org/resources/home_school/b2shandout.aspx

You may also appreciate this article from ERCP (Early Childhood Education Research and Practice) http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v3n2/dockett.html

[See also, www.speakingofapraxia.com for apraxia-specific back-t0-school tips]

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