Successful First Steps: Tips to Guide Your Child’s Transition to Kindergarten
The start of kindergarten is one of the biggest transitions in the life of a young child. Moving from the safety and security of a home environment into a new and unfamiliar setting presents many challenges for new students, faced suddenly with new authority figures and new daytime routines.
As the school year is getting underway and many families are now helping their children with this adjustment, we asked Maryanne Harper, Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Coordinator, to share some tips on separation anxiety, the importance of routines, and why it’s essential for parents to maintain open communication both with teachers and with your child during the transition process.
Overcoming Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a healthy and protective emotion. It’s a child’s way of saying to their parents, “You’re my safe base, but I need to develop trust and confidence in alternate care-givers.”
Therefore, the first few weeks of a child settling into an early year’s classroom is a time of crucial importance – it will contribute greatly to their eventual comfort in the new setting. All children are individuals, and while some children will adjust fairly quickly to their new environment and new routines, others will take longer to feel comfortable and secure. Do not feel the need to rush the process, but instead understand that each child develops on a different time schedule and that the most important things for parents to do is to support their children no matter the stage of their current development.
Establish Daily Routines
Routines can help your child feel safe and secure, particularly during times of transition. It’s helpful, therefore, to set up a routine for school mornings – i.e. get up, have breakfast, brush your teeth, get dressed, put on sunscreen, pack lunchbox, and go. You could even make a chart with pictures showing the different steps of the routine and then go over the chart with your children.
Parents can also develop a consistent and predictable farewell routine in order to make it easier when leaving students at school in the morning. Some parents wave goodbye from outside the classroom window or make a funny goodbye face; others read a short book with their children before parting. Transitional objects – for example a family picture, a special doll, or a favourite blanket – also work well to comfort children. But please remember that most children settle in quickly after their parents leave, so it’s important for parents to say goodbye once and then leave. Too many goodbyes can be stressful both for you and your child.
Open communication between parents and teachers is crucial. Teachers should share with parents the experiences that their child is having at school, while parents then reinforce their children’s classroom development and share progress reports and updates with teachers.
If your child is taking longer to settle in than you had expected and you still have concerns, discuss these with one of your child’s teachers. Together you can agree on and put into place strategies to support your child during this time.
Communication between parents and children is also an essential step of the transition process. Talk to your child in a positive way about any worries they have. Staying confident, cheerful and positive yourself will make a difference. Although you may be feeling just as anxious and emotional as your child, try to stay energetic and positive, as children will pick up on and mirror your feelings.
Sometimes children’s excitement carries them through the first few weeks of school. However, the novelty can eventually wear off, and you may notice that your child is no longer excited to go to school. In this situation, again, parents should remain positive and encouraging, which will help to rekindle their child’s enthusiasm.
Establishing a Safe Environment
The home environment is the safe base from which children can branch out and explore the world; they’re able to grow, learn, and become socially and emotionally confident when having a supportive home environment that they can return to.
For young students, getting off to a great start during the first months of kindergarten is necessary because it allows children to feel that school is also a place where they can feel safe. Students should feel comfortable to take chances, to explore, to be adventurous, and to lean on teachers for guidance and direction. And with these few tips in mind, they’ll be up and running in no time!